Indian firm Adani on Tuesday (11), accused environmental activists of exploiting legal loopholes to stall a massive Australian coal mine, after Standard Chartered bank withdrew as a financial adviser to the project.
An Australian court last week revoked government approval for the Aus$16.5 billion (£7.8bn) Carmichael coal mine, which could have become one of the world’s biggest.
The British bank said on Monday the decision to cut ties was made amid a review of the balance between the need for energy generation in developing countries and their environmental impact.
“As a result of this ongoing review by Standard Chartered and the delays experienced by Adani in receipt of its project approvals, both parties have agreed to end the bank’s role in the Carmichael project,” the bank said in a statement.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia also last week said it had ended its financial advisory role to Adani, while major European and US banks have refused to fund the project due to environmental concerns.
Adani said it had “requested the termination of Standard Chartered’s financial advisory role, on the basis of Adani’s own concerns over ongoing delays to a now five-year-long approvals process in Australia”.
“In the event Australia’s federal approvals framework is not further undermined by activists seeking to exploit legal loopholes, enabling the project and the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment it would bring to be delivered, Adani would happily work with the bank in future,” it said in a statement.
Activists have criticised the controversial project, arguing it could hurt marine life in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef because the coal would have to be shipped out of a nearby port.
Last week’s successful legal challenge, which reportedly hinged on the vulnerable status of two small reptiles, means approval for the mine must now be reconsidered by environment minister Greg Hunt.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific welcomed Standard Chartered’s statement and said the Adani project was a “massive reputational risk for even the world’s most powerful banks”.
Critics have also said falling coal prices was dampening interest in the development.
The mine was forecast to produce 60 million tonnes of thermal coal a year for export, providing electricity for up to 100 million people in India, and generating thousands of Australian jobs.