Adani is reportedly close to securing the loans it requires to build fits railway from Abbot Point to the Galilee basin, allowing coal from the proposed Carmichael coalmine to be exported through the Great Barrier Reef, according to the ABC.
The news comes as preparations for construction of the railway pick up pace and protesters step up last-ditch efforts to stop it from proceeding.
Coal industry insiders were told by a director of Adani Mining the company had secured funding from China for the rail project, the ABC has reported.
The report appears to confirm earlier suggestions the Chinese state-owned enterprise China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) had been in the running for contracts in the railroad’s construction.
It also coincides with railway sleepers being moved in and worker facilities being constructed, further suggesting financial backing is at least close to being met for the project.
Experts say Chinese government financing will inevitably come with conditions requiring materials to be sourced from China, further undermining the credibility of Adani’s claims the project will bring jobs to Australia.
Reports of the possible loan deal have not shed any more light on which Chinese companies or agencies are involved, beyond revelations from earlier this month.
Meanwhile, protesters have increased their efforts to halt the mine and called on Australians from around the country to join them.
On Tuesday a group of religious leaders from the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change blockaded the construction zone but were quickly arrested and moved on by police.
A spokeswoman for the group Frontline Action on Coal (Flac) told the Guardian there were dozens of protesters permanently in Bowen, near Abbot Point, and they plan similar actions at least every week between now and Christmas, with the aim of halting the construction of the railway.
“Activities will continue over the coming months to ensure that work on the railway does not proceed,” the spokeswoman told Guardian Australia.
She said Flac was calling on people to join their movement and get involved with the protests.
“Everyone, locally and nationally, is encouraged to get involved,” she said. “The way that they would get involved is to sign the pledge on the Flac website. When they put their details in there will be someone who will follow up with them.”
Asked what the Chinese financing would mean for Queensland suppliers, the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said: “We have a buy Queensland policy and also no 457 visas. They know the policy.
“They have already been making commitments to purchasing things already, supplies and services in Townsville and Maryborough.”
The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, said it was “remarkable” that there was still support for the project in Australia.
“Why are we looking at supporting a mine that will now be funded by the Chinese government,” Di Natale said.
News of Adani’s potential involvement with Chinese lenders came after press releases from earlier in the year emerged this month.
Adani already has links with CMEC. In January 2017, the Chinese company’s president, Zhang Chun, met a delegation from Adani, as well as David Overall, the boss of the Australian mining construction company Downer EDI.
Downer EDI told the ASX it received letters informing it of Adani’s intent to contract the company for the construction of the mine and associated infrastructure but that no binding contract had been entered into.
Following the meeting, the press release said CEMC “hoped to cooperate with Adani and Downer to take part in financing, construction and operation of relevant coalmines and railway projects”.
Tim Buckley from the pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said since that time negotiations had progressed and “CMEC is still negotiating to be potentially involved as a contractor and financier for the proposed Carmichael rail project”.
With CEMC’s involvement, the project could get access to additional financing from the state-owned China Construction Bank and Export-Import Bank of China. The possibility was highlighted in October when Jeyakumar Janakaraj, the chief executive officer of Adani Australia, told Reuters the company was in talks to secure loans from export credit agencies.
Last month it was revealed that Australian federal ministers had written a formal letter to China’s government to confirm that the controversial coal project had passed all necessary environmental approvals.