The Adani group has launched its own rail business to haul coal to its Queensland port, while avoiding any public mention of the parent company or the controversial Carmichael mine.
- Bowen Rail Company last month announced it was launching a haulage business to service Abbot Point export terminal
- Searches show the directors of Bowen Rail Company Pty Ltd are all senior Adani staff in Australia
- A spokesman for Aurizon said it was “not aware Adani has commenced any commercial process with regard to the tender of above-rail haulage contracts”
It follows years of pressure from anti-coal activists that has prompted a string of potential Adani contractors to walk away from the mining giant, increasing the cost of doing business.
Adani’s apparent move to go it alone on coal haulage will add $200 million to the upfront cost of its Queensland project, according to one energy analyst.
Bowen Rail Company (BRC) last month announced it was launching a haulage business to service Abbot Point export terminal.
Head of project delivery, David Wassell, said the company had bought its own “state-of-the-art locomotives and rollingstock” and would recruit about 50 workers.
Neither the media release nor the company website mention Adani or the Carmichael mine.
But company searches show BRC is owned by an Adani group company in India, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited, via two holding companies in Singapore.
The searches show the directors of BRC are all senior Adani staff in Australia.
They are Adani Australia chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj, Adani Enterprises infrastructure chief executive Trista Brohier, Adani Australia executive director Samir Vora and Adani Abbot Point Operations finance manager Damien Dederer.
Staff biographies on the BRC website exclude their work history with Adani.
Mr Wassell’s biography states that, “prior to joining Bowen Rail Company, David held the position of national supply chain development manager at ASCIANO”.
But his LinkedIn profile said between BRC and ASCIANO, he worked for three years as Adani Australia’s manager of rail operations.
The LinkedIn profiles of two other BRC staff state they work at Adani Australia, the proponent of the Carmichael mine.
Adani Australia is owned by Indian-based Adani Enterprises Limited.
The Adani family owns almost 75 per cent of Adani Enterprises and just over 62 per cent of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone.
The ABC last year revealed Adani was snubbed by rail haulage operator, Genesee & Wyoming Australia.
The other two rail operators with capacity to haul Adani’s 10 million tonnes of coal a year — Aurizon and Pacific National — have come under activist and shareholder pressure to follow suit.
A spokesman for Aurizon told the ABC it was, “not aware Adani has commenced any commercial process with regard to the tender of above-rail haulage contracts or indeed whether they intend to”.
A Queensland Government document showed Adani had applied for accreditation as a rolling stock operator, which was needed to haul coal.
The national rail safety register showed Adani was still waiting for that accreditation.
A spokeswoman for Pacific National did not respond to questions from the ABC.
Adani’s current plan hinges on building a 189km rail line from the mine to link to Aurizon’s Central Queensland Coal Network running to Abbot Point.
It must reach a separate access agreement with Aurizon, which it reportedly has not yet done.
The Aurizon spokesman said it was legally required to consider all access requests but also to keep them confidential.
Adani had previously planned to build a 388km line to transport up to 30 mega tonnes a year of coal.
But it was forced to scale down its plans after the only contractor it considered capable of building the mine, Downer, walked away after being targeted by protesters.
In a Supreme Court application for an injunction and damages against activist Ben Pennings, a lawyer for Adani said scaling down to 10MT of coal a year, “resulted in an increase to the capital cost per tonne of coal of at least 15 per cent”.
Protest pressure puts off contractors
Adani, in its application, said activist pressure has driven up its cost of engaging contractors on two fronts.
Adani has, “not always been able to engage what are known as the ‘tier 1’ companies or the ‘industry leaders'”, raising its risks and “substantially” increasing its insurance costs, its lawyer said in an affidavit.
Companies won’t do business with Adani unless it enters “cost plus” contracts that force it to cover any “additional costs [that] may be incurred as a result of activist and protester action”, he said.
Former Citibank analyst Tim Buckley, now at the pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said Adani’s decision drastically increased its capital costs, which other rail operators would have wanted to avoid.
Mr Buckley said locomotives and coal wagons for the mine’s first phase of 10MT a year would cost $200 million upfront.
This would rise to half a billion dollars in the mine’s second phase of 27MT a year, he said.
The money it saved from not outsourcing would be offset by having to pay $50 million a year in interest, he said.
Pablo Brait, from environmental lobby group Market Forces, said BRC was, “another potential vehicle for the shifting of funds from Adani’s India-based companies to its Australian coal project”.
This meant Adani group investors who had previously ruled out financing the Australian coal project were now linked to it, and faced renewed pressure by environmental campaigners.
Market Forces has raised the issue with financiers linked to Adani Ports.
Adani Ports’ biggest bondholder, Allianz, has previously ruled out financing or insuring new coal projects.
An Adani Australia spokeswoman said the Carmichael project was “on-track to produce first coal in 2021”.
“Discussions that Adani undertakes with third parties on contractual matters are commercial in confidence,” she said.