CoalWire 1, 29th August 2013

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CoalWire is a weekly news bulletin which summarises the most significant developments affecting the global coal industry and highlights the efforts of groups around the world working on coal-related issues. CoalWire’s editor is Bob Burton, who is also a Contributing Editor of CoalSwarm. Suggestions of material for future bulletins should be sent to editor@coalwire.org.

campaigns

Community study reveals spike in dust levels from coal trains

The Coal Terminal Action Group in Newcastle, Australia has released the results of a crowd-funded air sampling project to monitor dust levels associated with coal trains travelling to the world’s largest coal export loader. The project’s report revealed that coal trains increased particle pollution concentrations by up to 13 times pre-coal train levels. Following extensive media coverage, the state government is under pressure to require the covering and washing of coal wagons and the scrapping of plans for a proposed fourth coal export terminal.

news

Australia: Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Shenhua Group are lobbying the New South Wales government to further weaken planning laws to give economic benefits more weight than environmental considerations. The lobbying campaign follows a decision in April by the NSW Land and Environment Court to reject an application by Rio Tinto for the expansion of its Mount Thorley Warkworth mine. Rio Tinto is currently appealing against the decision. (Australian Financial Review – subscription only)

Canada: The Tahltan First Nation has stepped up protests over Fortune Minerals’ proposed Arctos metallurgical coal project in northern British Columbia.  A 20% joint venture partner in the project is the Canadian subsidiary of POSCO, a major South Korean steel maker(Globe and Mail)

China:  Overcapacity is a serious problem in the country’s coal industry, according to analysis by the China National Coal Association, an industry lobby group. The country’s stockpiles currently exceed 200 million tonnes, affecting profitability. Jiang Zhimin, Vice-Chairman of the China National Coal Association, reports that “24 of the 90 large-sized coal enterprises in our survey are operating in a deficit”.  (China Radio International’s English Service)

Ghana: A 700 megawatt coal-fired power station has been proposed by Sonin Asogli, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Shenzhen Energy Group, at an unspecified location. Criticism of the proposed plant prompted Daniel Amlalo, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana, to insist that “if it is environmentally unfriendly, who goes for it? Nobody goes for it.” (CitiFM Online)

India: In a bid to fast-track approval processes, the Cabinet Committee on Investment, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has signalled its support for 28 new power projects. The committee has directed the majority government-owned Coal India to conclude Fuel Supply Agreements for 18 of the projects by early September. (Daily News & Analysis)

India: The Ministry of Coal has failed to comply with an August 6 court order requiring it to hand over numerous documents relating to an investigation into the allocation of coal blocks between 2006 and 2009, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the Supreme Court of India. The CBI is investigating the decisions made to allocate coal resources at well below their market value. Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was responsible for the coal portfolio at the time of the allocations being investigated. (Times of India)

Mongolia: A consortium led by power utility GDF-Suez has entered into an agreement with the Mongolian government to build a US$1.2 billion, 450 megawatt coal-fired heat and power station in UlaanbaatarProject agreements for the plant, which is proposed to be commissioned in 2017, have yet to be finalised. (Bloomberg)

Poland: Polish government plans to build 1800 megawatts of lignite-fired capacity at the Opole power station have been criticised as “illegal” by five Members of the European Parliament. The Polish President has refused to comply with a European Union Directive that requires new coal power stations to be assessed for Carbon Capture and Storage readiness. The European Commission is being asked to take action. (Euractiv)

United States: For the first time ever, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received no bids for a coal mining tract in the Power River Basin. The BLM estimated that the tender area contained 148 million tonnes of thermal coal. Cloud Peak Energy, which operates an adjoining mine, stated that current market conditions made the deposit uneconomic. (Caspar Star-Tribune)

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen too often in Congress is that the fossil fuel industries tend to be very influential — let’s put it that way — on the energy committees in Congress.  And they tend not to be particularly sympathetic to alternative energy strategies.“

President Barack Obama speaking at Binghamton University.

companies + markets

Peabody: The financial ratings firm Moody’s has downgraded Peabody’s credit rating due to “prolonged weak industry conditions for metallurgical and thermal coal”. Moody’s expects revenue from Peabody’s Powder River Basin mines in the US to decline further “as higher-priced” contracts with power utilities expire. Moody’s also anticipates that “persistently weak demand from the global steel industry” will “challenge Peabody’s Australian mines.” Peabody operates 28 mines in the US and Australia and sold 249 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal in 2012. (Moody’s)
Kompania Weglowa: The publicly-owned Polish coal company, Kompania Weglowa, is seeking a bailout from the government’s Agency for Industrial Development. The company, which is the largest hard coal company in the European Union, has been affected by low prices for imported coal. The Polish government, which will host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s COP19 in mid-November, has been widely criticised for resisting European Union initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. (Reuters)

“We’re probably finished for a time investing in coal,”

BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

resources

Bernstein Research, Asian Coal & Power: Less, Less, Less … The Beginning of the End of Coal, June 2013. This 140-page report argues that China will cease importing coal in 2015 and that Chinese demand will fall in absolute terms by 2016. The report also argues that there are significant limits on how much coal India is likely to import given that electricity prices are based on low domestic coal prices while imported coal is far more expensive. This is a must read report. Neither the report nor an executive summary is publicly available but please contact the CoalWire editor for more details.

take action

Reclaim Power! The Global Month of Action on Energy is being organised from October 11 to November 11, 2013. People around the world are encouraged to take collective action to oppose dirty energy projects and promote the need to switch to democratic, public renewable energy systems. The Global Day of Action on Coal is set for October 22. Contact Trusha Reddy for more information.