Adani trying to hold on to Australian coal mine project despite odds

Infrastructure conglomerate Adani Group may opt out of the proposed $21.5-billion railroad-cum-mine project in Australia's Queensland province amid a series of legal challenges from environmental groups against the project.

The company's founder and chairman Gautam Adani told The Australian newspaper that the ''pit to plug'' project was yet to receive the green light after six years of environmental assessments and court battles.

''You can't continue just holding. I have been really disappointed that things have got too delayed,'' Adani said.

He said, he hoped the court challenges to Australia's largest proposed coal mine would end by early 2017. However, he added that with one court case yet to be heard in the Federal Court, and at least two groups threatening high court action, the wait could be indefinite.

Adani had planned to export coal to India to feed his power plants, but has now decided to look for alternatives.

Adani had confronted Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull in December 2015 to have greater certainty on such projects. He said, ''We were suggesting how to bring in the certainty of the timing.

''We were asking how we get certainty of the time schedules... that is the most important for us in committing all of our resources.''

''It's just covering up the real fact that what is damaging the reef is an increase in the temperature of the seas through climate change,'' he said.

The new Labour government of Queensland has filed a fresh case in the Australian federal court against the mining lease for Carmichael, which will be heard this year.

Adani said he had originally expected the approval process to get over in two to three years, adding that it is now six years and that he has already spent $3 billion buying the tenements and the Abbot Point port lease.

While there is no finance available now, Adani hopes that with environmental clearance, the company would still be able to explore finances for the project.

If there are no more unexpected delays, Adani said he has confidence that the project would get financing and ''still be competitive'' against other alternative sources of coal in India and Indonesia.

Adani Australia chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj said the co-ordinated campaign by anti-coal activists to block the mine had damaged investor confidence in Australia.

He said the business community had expressed concern about future investment in Australia. ''I think it has already turned off a lot of switches. I am not saying it is going to be permanent, but there has been damage.''

Prime Minister Turnbull's office did not comment on Adani's call for greater certainty to the approvals process.

The federal government claims to have cleared the project, bur court cases and environmental issues would remain as obstacles to the project.