(EnergyAsia, September 10 2014, Wednesday) — India’s Adani Group is expected to soon begin work on Australia’s largest coal project which the UN, environmentalists and marine scientists say poses a long-term threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef and its marine life.

Speaking to India’s leading business executives in New Delhi last week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abott said an Indian company, which he did not name, will start developing massive thermal coal deposits in central Queensland state that will “light the lives of 100 million Indians for the next half century.”

The company is understood to be Adani Mining, a subsidiary of the Adani Group, which received Canberra’s approval in July to proceed with its controversial A$16.5 billion investment in the Carmichael coal mine project in the Galilee Basin. (US$1=A$1.06).

Abott, who was on a two-day visit to India, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top officials and business leaders to boost bilateral as well as trade ties.

The two leaders signed an agreement for Australia to supply uranium, coal and natural gas to India, which has been struggling to overcome chronic energy shortages that contributed to the downfall of the previous government.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was decisively voted to power earlier this year as Indians blamed the government of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to solve the country’s worsening power crisis.

Amid high expectations for his new government, Modi will be counting on Adani Mining to make good its promise to start exporting coal to India from the greenfield 60-million-ton/year Carmichael mine from 2017. The company faces formidable odds to meet this deadline as it will also have to build a new 300km rail line that has yet to receive final approval to deliver the coal to the port at Abbot Point for export to India.

Environmentalists are also not giving up the fight to delay or even stop the development of the mine located some 400km from the Great Barrier Reef.