CoalWire 64, 20th November 2014

November 20, 2014

features

How hot is too hot for BHP Billiton?

“When BHP Billiton’s Chairman Jac Nasser steps up to address shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting, it is a fair bet that he’ll be keen to emphasise the company’s recent earnest declarations that it is taking climate change very, very, seriously. But there is a simple question that BHP Billiton doesn’t address in any of its voluminous reports to shareholders: how hot is too hot in a warming world?” writes Bob Burton in RenewEconomy.  

Suggested Tweet: How hot is too hot for #BHPBilliton? http://bit.ly/1u8Ejt0 #coal @bobburtonoz @renew_economy

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change

“Decades of strip mining have left this town [Dhanbad, Jharkhand State] in the heart of India’s coal fields a fiery moonscape, with mountains of black slag, sulfurous air and sickened residents. But rather than reclaim these hills or rethink their exploitation, the government is digging deeper in a coal rush that could push the world into irreversible climate change and make India’s cities, already among the world’s most polluted, even more unlivable, scientists say,” writes Gardiner Harris in the New York Times.

Suggested Tweet: #India #coal boom would displace tens of thousands, make air pollution worse and tip #climate balance http://nyti.ms/1HcDCZQ @nytimes

campaigns

Pakistani residents force coal terminal to cut dust

A legal action by residents of Karachi has prompted the director-general (DG) of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, Naeem Mughal, to inform the Sindh High Court that the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) does not have environmental approval to operate its coal import terminal. The residents objected to coal dust pollution from uncovered stockpiles and trucks. Mughal told the court that dust emissions were putting residents and workers at risk of respiratory problems. The court directed KPT to spray its stockpiles and cover all coal trucks. KPT was directed to submit a comprehensive report on the issue to the court within a month. A further hearing has been scheduled for November 26. (Dawn, The Express Tribune)

Suggested Tweet: Legal action forces Karachi #coal port #Pakistan to cover #coal trucks & stockpiles EPA said terminal had no approval http://bit.ly/1qYT4yk

top news

US groups sue coal company over falsified compliance tests: A coalition of environmental groups has filed legal notice of their intent to sue Frasure Creek Mining – one of the largest coal companies in Kentucky – over its filing of false compliance reports. The groups allege the false reports resulted in more than  28,000 breaches of the Clean Water Act. The groups notice says that 40 per cent of water test results the company submitted in the first quarter of 2014 were the same as results submitted in 2013.(Waterkeeper Alliance)

Former Massey boss indicted over mine disaster: The former CEO and Chairman of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges including conspiracy, fraud and making false statements to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The indictment includes allegations that Massey Energy had a system for tipping off mine employees of inspections in sufficient time to cover up safety deficiencies. The charges follow an investigation into the April 5, 2010 explosion at the company’s Upper Big Branch mine in which 29 coal miners died.  (New York Times, U.S. District Court)

Dutch firms cede a little ground on ‘blood coal’: Stung by calls to ban imports of ‘blood coal’ from Colombia, five Dutch power utilities have signed an agreement with the Netherlands government seeking to improve working conditions at the mines they source their coal from. The companies have agreed to disclose which mines they buy coal from. In June, the human rights group PAX published a report – The Dark Side of Coal – documenting the history of human rights abuses against people living near coal mines owned by Drummond and Prodeco.(DutchNews.nl, PAX)

Charges laid against former NSW minister over coal deal: The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has announced that former NSW Minister for Mineral Resources Ian Macdonald will be prosecuted for misconduct over the granting of a coal exploration licence to Doyles Creek Mining. ICAC is also prosecuting the former Chairman of Doyles Creek Mining, John Maitland, for aiding and abetting Macdonald’s offences and providing false and misleading evidence to the Commission. (ICAC)

Inaction over Canadian tailings dam collapse criticised: Over a year after the tailings dam at the Obed Mountain mine collapsed, spilling 670 million litres of tailings into the Athabasca River catchment, Alberta’s environmental regulator has still not lodged any charges. Environmental groups have urged federal government agencies to lodge charges under the federal Fisheries Act. (The Telegram)

Queensland pledges public funds for Galilee projects: The Queensland government has pledged to invest “hundreds of millions” of dollars of public funds in infrastructure to help Adani and other companies proposing new coal mines, railway lines and port expansions in the Galilee Basin. The government has also weakened mine approval conditions to defer an assessment of groundwater impacts until the commencement of mining. (Crikey, Guardian)

“We need to shift these people to corporate villages far from the coal fields,”

said T. K. Lahiry, the chairman of the government-owned Bharat Coking Coal, acknowledging that tens of thousands of people would have to be moved for India to expand coal production.

news

Australia: China agrees to scrap coal import taxes within two years as part of free trade deal.

Egypt: Public electricity utility signs MOU for 2400-3000 megawatts (MW) coal-fired plant.

Germany: Report argues 9000 MW of coal plants should be closed to meet climate goals.

Pakistan: Railway line upgrades needed before oil to coal power plant conversions can proceed.

Thailand: NGO’s alarmed at martial law crackdown on coal activists in southern provinces.

US: Coal baron’s company owes $1.5 million in fines for safety violations.

“The argument that poor countries need coal for development and that westerners are trying to stop them is a smokescreen from a dying industry. It takes us further away from the fair world we must aspire towards if we are to truly tackle climate change and energy security in an equitable manner. If coal companies and their political backers really had the needs of the developing world at heart, they would be subsidising renewables, both community- and industrial-scale, along with high-quality transmission infrastructure. And they would be advocating the immediate end of coal burning in rich countries,”

writes Dr Camilla Toulmin from the International Institute for Environment and Development in The Independent.

companies + markets

Norway’s largest pension fund divests from coal companies: Norway’s largest pension fund manager, KLP, has decided to divest from all coal companies and power utilities which “at the very least … derive 50 per cent or more of their revenues from coal-based business activities.” The fund estimates that it will sell shares worth approximately US$74 million. KLP will publish a list of the companies it divested from on December 1. (KLP)

Three week shutdown for Glencore’s coal mines: Hit by low global coal prices, Glencore has announced that it will shutter its 20 Australian coal mines for three weeks from mid-December. The company’s 8000 employees will be forced to take annual leave for the duration of the shutdown. The shutdown will cut the company’s annual production by five million tonnes. (Glencore,The Age)

Mine first, markets later for Indian mine:To accelerate domestic coal production the Minister for Coal and Power, Piyush Goyal, directed the opening of the Amrapali mine in the state of Jharkhand. However, according to Anil Swarup, an adviser to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, coal had to be trucked 85 kilometres over rough roads to the nearest railway. As a result, the coal was expensive and there were few customers. “The pressure is to just produce without having facilities to evacuate coal,” a Coal India official stated. (Reuters)

China announces 2020 coal cap plan: The State Council’s Energy Development Strategy Action Plan has flagged a coal consumption cap of 4.2 billion tonnes by 2020. In 2013 China consumed approximately 4 billion tonnes, while consumption has fallen this year. In its recent World Energy Outlook  the International Energy Agency assumed Chinese coal demand would peak “about 2030.” (China Daily)

Chinese industry lobbies for export tax cut: A proposal by the China National Coal Association to cut the coal export tax from 10 per cent to three per cent is currently being considered by the National Development and Reform Commission and could be introduced in 2015. China exported 7.3 million tonnes in 2013, mostly to South Korea and Japan. Analysts believe that in the short-term a tax cut would mainly benefit metallurgical coal exports. (The Business Times, Platts)

resources                      take action

World Energy Outlook 2014, International Energy Agency (IEA), November 2014. (Pdf)

This is the IEA’s detailed annual overview of possible scenarios to 2040. In its assessment – despite a boom in renewables – coal demand could grow by 40 per cent by 2040, an outcome it explicitly warns against. The executive summary is here and a media release with a brief overview here.

Turkey’s Changing Power Markets, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, November 2014. (pdf) (Turkish)

This report concludes that the Turkish government’s coal-centred power plan over-estimates additional power generation capacity while the cost of a renewables-driven expansion would be about the same as additional fossil-fuelled capacity.

No Need for New US Coal Ports: Data Shows Oversupply in Capacity, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, November 2014. (Pdf)

This 6-page report provides a succinct overview of the over-supply of current coal export capacity and argues that additional ports are unnecessary and very risky.

Stop forced displacements by dirty coal

The World Development Movement is seeking signatories for a letter to the CEO’s of BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American and the Colombian government opposing the expropriation of land in the Las Casitas for an expansion of the Cerrejón coal mine. The letter is here.