Indian energy giant Adani says it does not need a $1 billion government loan to co-finance a railway line for its proposed Carmichael mine, seemingly shooting its own appeal for public funding in the foot.
There is mounting speculation the Turnbull government's newly-established Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund will approve a 50 per cent concessional loan for the rail project, to the dismay of environmentalists.
But Adani spokesman Ron Watson said while such a subsidy could fast-track the project and underpin about 1500 jobs, it was not a prerequisite for the crucial rail line to proceed.
"It's not critical. We have obviously applied for it because it's available," he told Fairfax Media. "This is something that governments of all political persuasions have done in the past and I assume will do in the future. It doesn't necessarily mean it's make or break for the project."
Mr Watson emphasised Adani was a very large global company and had recently announced a $200 million solar power plant near Whyalla and a 100-150 megawatt plant in Central Queensland's Moranbah.
"There's a certain degree of naivety about the size of this company and the dollars that it has at its own disposal," he said.
The NAIF last week gave preliminary approval for a Commonwealth loan for the 389-kilometre rail line that would connect the Galilee Basin mine to the Adani-controlled Abbot Point.
The $2.2 billion rail project was deemed to meet basic financial, economic and employment requirements and will now be assessed for a low-interest government loan of up to 50 per cent.
Mr Watson said the railway could potentially serve not only the Carmichael mine but would make other proposed mines in the Basin more viable. "This is the trigger for those other projects," he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met Adani's global chairman, multi-billionaire Gautam Adani, in Melbourne on Monday on the sidelines of the Australia India Leadership Dialogue.
"Yes I do expect to meet Mr Adani and I've got no doubt we'll be discussing his proposed substantial investment in Queensland," Mr Turnbull confirmed before the meeting.
Fairfax Media also understands Townsville will be formally named as the mine's regional headquarters on Tuesday, confirming months of speculation and paving the way for about 200 jobs in the economically troubled city.
Mr Adani will make the announcement alongside Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, whose government on Monday issued final approvals for the associated rail line and construction workers' camp.
The last remaining hurdles are a water licence and securing financial backing for the $21 billion mine amid an uncertain outlook on coal prices, global shifts toward renewables and vehement opposition from environmentalists.
It came as environmentalists took to Melbourne's streets to protest the potential subsidy, and left-leaning think thank The Australia Institute released national polling showing 41 per cent of people opposed the NAIF loan, with 26 per cent in favour and 33 per cent unsure.
There was higher support for the loan in Queensland, at 33 per cent.
Mr Watson said opponents had made "outlandish" claims about the potential $1 billion loan, which would come from the independent NAIF's $5 billion war chest to complement private sector investment.
"It's not taxpayer funding as such," he said. "It's not being taken away from teachers, doctors and nurses."
The Greens' climate change spokesman Adam Bandt accused the Turnbull government of preparing to co-fund a project "that will kill people, kill jobs and kill the [Great Barrier] Reef".
The untapped coal reserves of the Galilee Basin were so colossal that exploiting them risked "tipping the world into dangerous global warming", he said.
The story 'It’s not critical': Adani says it doesn't even need controversial $1 billion government loan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.