Religious leaders occupy Australia’s environment minister's office to protest Adani’s coal mine

Australian environmentalists have been protesting for months now against Adani Group’s $16bn Carmichael coal mine and rail project to be built in the Galilee Basin, located in central Queensland.

This week, eight religious leaders added their voices to those of activists opposing the project. But they are doing more than just chanting slogans. They decided to occupy the electorate office of Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s Environment Minister, and they are vowing to stay there until the official withdraws his support for the mine.

People rejecting what would be one of the world’s largest thermal coal mines say it could potentially harm the Great Barrier Reef and vulnerable species including a lizard known as the yakka skink and the black-throated finch.

Earlier this year, Christian, Buddhist, and Jewish leaders penned an open letter where they blasted Adani and asked Frydenberg to reevaluate the plan. However, according to Rabbi Keren-Black, the Minister didn’t respond to their petitions and that’s why they decided to take action.

“We do not feel that the response has been sufficient,” Keren-Black told The Guardian.

As the first day of occupation was taking place inside the minister’s office, outside about a dozen religious leaders were holding a symbolic “funeral for coal.” Participants from various faiths presented eulogies and ended up saying that it is now “time to leave it in the ground.”

Carmichael hasn’t had an easy ride. In addition to court challenges that have cost more than $120 million and ongoing rallies led by the Stop Adani Alliance, the company faced a step-back in March when Australia’s four biggest banks ruled out or withdrew funding from the project.

Official figures estimate that the mine will contribute $2.97bn each year to Queensland’s economy and has the potential to create 6,400 new jobs. The mine is expected to produce 60 million tonnes of thermal coal a year for export, which would fuel power generation for 100 million Indians.