Siemens to remain in Australia mining project despite environmental concerns

Elderly CEO addresses the press
Joe Kaeser, CEO of German industrial behemoth Siemens, gives a statement following a meeting with a leading member of the German branch of the Fridays for Future youth movement on January 10, 2020 in Berlin. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

BERLIN, Germany (AFP) – Siemens boss announced Sunday that the German conglomerate has decided to remain involved in a controversial Adani Carmichael coal mining project in Australia, despite massive environmental criticism as the country faces unprecedented bushfires.

The contract for some 18 million euros ($20 million) calls for Siemens to supply rail infrastructure for the Carmichael mine in Queensland, near the Great Barrier Reef.

“We have just finished our special meeting…. We have evaluated all the options and have concluded that we must fulfill our contractual obligations,” said Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser in a message on his Twitter account.

Twitter post of Siemen's CEO
Just finished our extraordinary Managing Board Meeting. We evaluated all options and concluded: We need to fulfill our contractual obligations. Also, we will establish an effective Sustainability Board to better manage environmental care in the future.

He also promised that Siemens, which supports the Paris climate agreement to curb carbon emissions, would create a body to better “manage in the future the questions of protecting the environment.”

Siemens has set itself the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

In response to the mine backlash, it also claims that Siemens technologies helped reduce its customers’ emissions by some 600 million tons in 2018, which it said was more than Australia’s annual CO2 output.

Activists from Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion staged demos in dozen of German cities against the mine on Friday, including outside Siemens’ Munich HQ.

A petition urging Siemens to quit the project drew some 60,000 signatures, while tens of thousands emailed Kaeser personally through the Fridays for Future website.

“Australia is on fire, we are in the midst of a climate crisis and burning coal contributes massively to the warming of the planet,” it read.

Bush fire raging through Australia
A bushfire burns in the town of Moruya, south of Batemans Bay, in New South Wales on January 4, 2020. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)

“Stop supporting the destruction of our planet and our future!”

The troubled project, which has been scaled down since it was first announced, has run into repeated delays caused by legal and regulatory hurdles, as well as funding problems.

The open-cut Carmichael mine is set to become operational next year and produce up to 27 million tonnes of coal annually.

Supporters say the mine will bring hundreds of much-needed jobs to rural Queensland in eastern Australia.

But conservationists say the project threatens local vulnerable species and means coal will have to be shipped from a port near the already-damaged Barrier Reef.

infographic of the map of the Adani Carmichael Project
Map of proposed Adani Carmichael Project

The world’s largest coral reef system faces multiple threats to its survival, most notably rising sea temperatures caused by climate change, water pollution and coral-eating starfish.

© Agence France-Presse