Takver is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Takver is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Religious leaders demand environmental minister withdrawal support for coal mine.

Josh Frydenberg, the federal environmental minister of Australia had a tough morning when religious leaders from different faiths occupied his office, demanding his withdrawal of support for Adani’s Carmichael mine. They also vowed to camp in his office until he issued a statement of withdrawal of support for the coal mine.

In June, Gautam Adani, the chairman of Adani, said in a statement he had given the green light to the coal project in Queensland state that would cost an estimated $16.5 billion dollars. He said, “This is the largest single investment by an Indian corporation in Australia, and I believe others will follow with investments and trade deals.” The Adani Group also has plans of building a railway line and an airstrip and estimates that the entire project will create at the very least 10,000 new jobs.

However, the move to build what would be one of the largest coal mines in the world has met stiff opposition from environmental groups, politicians and now religious leaders. In June, Nikola Casule, a campaigner for Greenpeace stated, “The people of Australia have overwhelmingly rejected this toxic project. The age of coal is dead, and we need real leadership to ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels.”

Religious leaders like Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black told journalists they had never been involved in acts of civil disobedience before, but that the action was warranted due to what was at stake. He commented, “I have been involved with the environment for many years. But I haven’t taken action in this way before. It seems to me now the situation is so dire and so urgent that we have to get him to take responsibility. Because we’re talking about an ethical responsibility to the future.”

There were seven other religious leaders, from a former Catholic Priest to a Buddhist leader. In April, these leaders had signed an open letter to the federal environment minister laying out their opposition to the coal mine project. However, they feel that the response thus far from Frydenberg’s office has been lackluster.

Construction of the Carmichael coal mine is projected to start in September 2017. If completed, the mine will be the biggest in Australia and will have five underground pits and two huge open-cut mines. It is estimated that the coal mine will have the capacity to export 60 million tons of coal, though the Adani Group estimates an output of 25 million tons a year. Industry insiders think the true output of the mine would be 5 million tons, with a waiting period of 4 years.

Jarrod Mckenna, a teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church in Perth, was among the religious leading a “funeral for coal” outside Frydenberg’s office while his colleagues were camping in the minister’s office building. He hoped that the minister would listen, stating, “Primarily to listen to the wishes of the traditional custodians who have repeatedly said no. To the scientists who have unequivocally said no. To listen to the general public who have said no – and to listen to his conscience."

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