Australian Coal: mining companies in Switzerland boost profits while Aborigines pay the price

Since the invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions against Russian fossil fuels, Australia has been exporting coal to Europe. Hand in hand, authorities and mining groups, such as Glencore and Adani, took advantage of the situation to give a boost to controversial projects. Public Eye has met with the Aboriginal peoples and environmental activists who are organising the resistance to the mining lobby.

Having missed its energy transition, Europe is forced to replace cheap Russian with Australian coal to ensure its energy supply. And so, the phasing-down of coal, decided in 2021 at the Glasgow Climate Conference, has been gathering dust. It's once again indigenous communities that are paying the price, while Swiss-based commodity companies are reaping the benefits. In the state of Queensland, Public Eye has been investigating one of Indian conglomerate Adani’s megaprojects, a group which, in 2020, established a commercial branch in Geneva, presumably to sell its coal. The business of Gautam Adani, the third richest person in the world, benefited from the support of Credit Suisse, who helped it raise some 27 million US-Dollars in bonds that year, according to our data. In 2022, the multinational produced 10 million tonnes of coal in the Carmichael mine. From there, the coal is transported by train to the Abbot Point terminal, also controlled by Adani, and then routed to Asia and Europe.

This climate-damaging project has sparked outrage among Aboriginal peoples because the Carmichael mine is located on the lands of the Wangan and Jagalingou people. At the time of our research, in October 2022, some fifteen people were occupying the plot located in front of the concession that Adani wants to transform into one of the largest coal mines in the world. They had been there for 406 days. Aboriginals and environmentalists denounce the aggressiveness of the multinational and the complacency of the authorities. Public Eye has been able to witness how Adani treats people who are interested in its activities. During our investigation, its security services followed and filmed us. Shortly afterwards, we were ordered via email to leave the Aboriginal camp, threatening legal action if we released our footage. Data provided by Argus Media shows that currently, a considerable share of Adani's production is shipped to European ports. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Australia has exported 3.3 million tonnes of coal to Europe, including 1.4 million tonnes from Abbot Point.

Adani is not the only company with big plans in Australia, a country that holds the world's third-largest coal reserves. In 2021, Glencore, the biggest miner in the country, launched public attacks against representatives of indigenous communities who opposed its project to extend the Glendell mine. The Swiss miner, which had made commitments to phasing out coal, is criticised for false promises and its disastrous environmental record. Hail Creek, another of the group’s projects, is among the most polluting open-pit mines. The analysis of satellite images in June 2022 by research firm Ember showed that it actually leaks more than 10 times the amount of methane (a particularly powerful greenhouse gas) than Glencore declared to regulators. Another controversial project is Valeria, which should become the largest mine in Australia. In early December 2022, Glencore put the project ‘under review’ due to its climate commitments, but also as a reaction to a tax hike announced by the Queensland government. A lever to bend the authorities? On site, however, Public Eye found out that most farmers had already been expropriated.

Further information here or with:

Oliver Classen, Media Director, +41 44 277 79 06,  

Robert Bachmann, Commodities Expert, +41 44 277 79 22,