After years of controversy, the Adani Carmichael coalmine could be on the brink of collapse before it even begins

Stop Adani Protesters gather in front of Parliament House (Photo by Michael Masters, Getty Images)
  • Adani’s Australian operations could be on the brink of collapse before its Carmichael coalmine is ever built, a forensic accountant has claimed to the ABC.
  • Professor Sandra van der Laan examined the limited publicly-available financial statements from the private company and concluded that the company was in “a very fragile, even perilous, financial position”.
  • Adani was quick to reject the claims, slamming them as “false and misleading” and the latest in a series of attacks aimed to destroy the Australian project.

The Adani Carmichael coal mine set to be built in Queensland’s Galilee Basin has courted controversy like no other project in recent memory.

Central and northern Queenslanders and MPs alike have lauded the jobs and economic stimulus the project promises to provide. Elsewhere, others scratched their heads as to why the country needed to build a brand new coalmine right next to the iconic Great Barrier Reef. At the same time that Australia tries to meet its Paris climate targets no less.

READ MORE: Federal resources minister Matt Canavan backs Queensland bid to reject scientific reports that interfere with mines

Despite battling for eight years to be approved, receiving the final environmental green light last month, the project finally looked to be going ahead.

But now, a forensic accountant has warned that the divisive Adani Carmichael coal mine could be on the brink of collapse before it even begins operation.

University of Sydney Professor Sandra van der Laan has sounded the alarm on the project after analysing Adani’s financial standing.

“It looks to me like a corporate collapse waiting to happen,” she told the ABC. “It has all the hallmarks of the big corporate failures we’ve seen over the last 20 to 30 years.”

She should know — van der Laan has a track record of picking corporate collapses. It was she and colleague Sue Newberry who warned in 2007 that ABC Learning, Australia’s biggest private childcare provider at the time and the world’s largest publically listed childcare company, was heading for disaster.

Sure enough, by the end of 2008, the company once valued at $2.5 billion had entered voluntary liquidation after it was overwhelmed by debt and “highly questionable business practices”, according to a parlimentary inquiry into it.

Now, van der Laan is calling the collapse of Adani’s Australian operations.

“Adani Mining is in a very fragile, even perilous, financial position,” van der Laan told the ABC. “The gap between the current assets and liabilities is what’s really concerning.”

According to Adani’s most recent financial statements, provided to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in March of this year, that gap is enormous. The ABC reports that the business’ liabilities exceed its assets by more than half a billion dollars.

Moreover, the ABC reports that the company will have $1.8 billion in liabilities come due over the next 12 months, compared to just $30 million in assets. Those liabilities are largely made up by an internal loan from parent company Adani Global on which the van der Laan says the Australian operation is reliant. That’s because the Australian mine was forced to self-fund after banks and wealth funds turned their back on it.

“Effectively on paper, they are insolvent. I wouldn’t be trading with them, as simple as that. I wouldn’t have anything to do with them,” van der Laan said.

Adani Australia has been quick to refute what it says are “false and misleading” claims in a statement seen by Business Insider Australia.

“The claims misrepresent Adani‚Äôs financial accounts in an attempt to discredit our business in what is nothing more than a smear campaign,” a spokesperson for Adani said.

“Just like every mining project, our project will not generate income until the mine and rail are built and operating and coal can be sold and exported. Until we start producing and selling coal, we will be continuing to invest in the development of the mine and rail and therefore this will be treated as an accounting loss.”

Adani acknowledged that sections of Australia had been opposed to its Carmichael coal project since the start and tried to downplay the analysis as another such attack.

“We expect anti-coal activists will continue their attempts to discredit and misrepresent our organisation and operations,” a spokesperson said.

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