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Funding the Galilee coal mines just got harder

17 June 2015

17 June 2015

It has been a privilege to support the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) traditional owners of the Galilee Basin to meet with banks across the US and Europe. The meetings were critical opportunities for the W&J to explain how financing Adani’s proposed mega mine would not just be supporting environmental and climate disaster, but also the devastation their ancestral land, threatening their very existence as a culture and people.

WnJ StanChart

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The meetings were intense and emotional. Hearing how Adani’s Carmichael mine would literally cut through the W&J’s cultural and spiritual lifeblood – the water – that sustains their stories, song lines and so much more was gut wrenching. Tears were shed in some of the meetings, and we made important progress with the banks. From Goldman Sachs and Citi reiterating their opposition to Adani’s Galilee Basin coal export plans, to Standard Chartered being told in no uncertain terms that their financial support for Adani’s Carmichael project (they have already loaned $680 million) needs to stop and the W&J’s human rights respected. Check out the great video of the W&J at Standard Chartered here. Every bank agreed that these were serious issues and that the rights of the traditional owners needed to be upheld.

All of these banks – and many more – are signatories to the Equator Principles or similar agreements that require major projects like the Carmichael coal mine to have the free, prior and informed consent of the traditional owners for the banks to fund them. Adani does not have that consent from the W&J and instead are using the Native Title process to cast aside the W&J’s opposition to having their ancestral land turned into Australia’s biggest coal mine.

This is why we had to go to all this effort, and bring the concerns of the Wangan and Jagalingou representatives directly to the banks. If not, all the banks hear is the story as told by Adani and the Government. The fact that the process is failing the traditional owners counts for nothing until they start their own dialogue with banks.

That’s why we have, over the last fortnight, made it harder for not just these banks, but any bank to finance the Carmichael coal mine. If they are serious about their policies to respect human rights, the W&J’s concerns, and the implications for how banks see the Carmichael project, are now unavoidable. Here’s what Adrian Burragubba, W&J representative, had to say as the tour came to an end:

“The banks we met with said they would seriously consider the issue of human rights due diligence surrounding Adani’s proposal, and confirmed their commitment to the principle of free, prior and informed consent and respect for Indigenous people’s rights. They also understood the serious environmental and climate risks of investing in coal ”