Switzerland’s Helvetia has become the latest insurer to rule out any future involvement in the Adani Group’s controversial Carmichael coal mine project in Australia, GTR can reveal.
Helvetia has previously stated it has no current involvement in the project, following pressure from Market Forces, which has led a sustained campaign to dissuade banks and insurers from supporting the mine’s construction or operations.
When asked by Market Forces to confirm that it “will never be involved with this project”, including in any wider infrastructure work such as port and railway developments, the insurer did not respond.
However, following queries from GTR, the company has today stated: “We can confirm that we won’t be involved in this project in the future as well as [that] we won’t be involved in the associated infrastructure.”
The statement follows a similar announcement by insurance provider Convex, which has operations in London and Bermuda, in early February. The company had also been targeted by Market Forces.
Convex now says it “will not insure the construction or operation of any new thermal coal mine and/or its dedicated infrastructure”. It adds that the decision is “in line with our ESG policy” and that any media reports of its involvement are “inaccurate and misleading”.
Mia Watanabe, campaigner at Market Forces, says the decisions “highlight the massive reputational risk that insurance companies face if they remain silent on this issue”.
“Helvetia is now the 44th major insurer and 110th company to rule out working with the Adani mine,” she tells GTR.
The campaign group says the vast scale of the Carmichael project endangers global climate targets, with coal from the mine expected to produce as much as 4.6 billion tonnes of CO2, more than ten times the UK’s annual emissions.
“If the other proposed Galilee Basin mines go ahead, the coal from this Basin alone could produce emissions representing 6% of humanity’s entire carbon budget for 1.5 degrees of warming,” it adds.
Despite years of opposition, the mine is now actively exporting coal. In December 2021, an Adani subsidiary announced that the first coal shipments were being readied for export before the end of the year, largely destined for India.
That activity is despite long-running controversy in the banking and insurance sector, however. In 2015, several major banks ruled out any involvement in its financing, including Citigroup, Société Générale, HSBC and Standard Chartered.
In November last year, BNY Mellon announced it would resign from all legacy transactions involving Adani in Australia, after the Financial Times revealed the bank’s Australian subsidiary was planning to provide financing for the project.
The mine was also discussed in an Australian parliamentary committee inquiry into financing for coal exports, launched in February 2021.
Adani told the inquiry that several insurers had refused to underwrite risk associated with the company, or had imposed “dramatic” increases in premiums on existing policies. Others refused to underwrite or renew policies linked to Adani’s contractors.
Contracts linked to the mine and related infrastructure, including railway construction, were worth an estimated A$2.2bn as of April 2021, the inquiry heard.
Adani argued that withdrawing finance or insurance cover results in “exporting Australian livelihoods offshore”, while creating a gap that would be filled by jurisdictions with poorer quality coal and less stringent environmental controls.
Despite that, Adani told the inquiry it remained fully financed and appropriately insured. The company did not respond when contacted by GTR.
Australia’s banks have defended their decision to exit the coal sector, telling the inquiry that the industry presents a growing risk on their books.
Market Forces says it has now set its sights on Lloyd’s of London, urging the insurance market to “come forward and confirm that none of their syndicates will issue insurance for Adani Carmichael and associated infrastructure”. Lloyd’s did not immediately respond when contacted by GTR.
Market Forces’ campaign against Convex included sending a campaigner dressed as Santa Claus to deliver stockings full of coal to the company’s Bermuda offices shortly before Christmas last year.
The company said at the time that “the red-suited climate advocate” had placed the company on his “naughty list” due to its contribution to climate change.