September 1, 2016
Issue 148  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

Coal companies are never far from controversy but over the last week this has reached new heights. In Australia a corruption investigation has recommended charges against a former Member of Parliament over his dealings with a company proposing a new coal port in Newcastle. In South Africa the National Treasury has accused the state-owned utility Eskom of “lying” over its claim it was co-operating with an investigation of coal contracts with a company noted for its close relationships to the family of President Jacob Zuma.

Elsewhere the closure of an old plant in Israel has been announced and a coal export terminal in Alaska has been mothballed. In Colombia, Cerrejon Coal’s Puerto Bolivar port has been closed while a complaint over air and water pollution is investigated.

Bob Burton

Features

Pakistan’s coal expansion brings misery to villagers in Thar Desert

A string of planned lignite mines and power stations in Pakistan’s Thar desert threatens to affect grazing lands, air quality and scarce water supplies of hundreds of thousands of villagers, writes Amar Guriro in The Wire.

Campaigns

Israel to shut four coal units by 2022

Four aging 350 megawatt (MW) coal units at the Orot Rabin plant in Hadera will be replaced by gas units by 2022, Israel’s Minister for National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, Yuval Steinitz, has announced. Steinitz had previously supported the units being fitted with pollution controls, prompting protests from environmental groups which want the plant closed. The timing of the   units’ closure is dependent on the commissioning dates of new gas fields, though Steinitz has flagged the coal units may be retained as emergency backup. While the decision has been welcomed by environmentalists, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense and Greenpeace want a far tighter timetable for closure. (Jerusalem Post)

Top News

Corruption inquiry recommends ex-NSW MP be charged over coal port: The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has recommended former NSW MP Joe Tripodi be charged with misconduct in public office for leaking a confidential NSW Treasury document to an executive of Buildev, a company proposing to build a fifth coal port in Newcastle. ICAC also detailed how, despite legislation banning donations from property developers, Nathan Tinkler and his group of companies donated about US$260,000 to political parties and campaigns supporting the coal port plan. (Newcastle Herald, ICAC)

South African Treasury scrutinises Gupta-Eskom coal deal: Tegeta Exploration, a company owned by the politically well-connected Gupta family, threatened legal action to block the release of a report by a senior Treasury official on its coal supply contracts with Eskom. Eskom claimed it was co-operating with Treasury’s audit and insisted there were no “conclusive findings” against the utility. However, Treasury took the extraordinary step of issuing a media release criticising Eskom for resisting its efforts to audit the contracts. (ENCA, National Treasury)

Contract for US coal baron’s company prompts queries: Southern Coal Sales Corporation, a company owned by the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, succeeded with an unsolicited pitch asking American Electric Power (AEP) to buy a large shipment of coal to keep a mine open. AEP has defended the US$34.2 million deal, insisting it often accepts unsolicited proposals. If Justice is elected Governor he will have the opportunity to appoint two members of the Public Service Commission, which regulates AEP’s Appalachian Power subsidiary, and will be in charge of implementing the Clean Power Plan. (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

Colombian province suspends Cerrejon exports over pollution: The La Guajira provincial government has suspended coal loading at Cerrejon Coal’s export terminal due to a complaint over dust emissions and the pollution of several communities’ water supply. Cerrejon is a joint venture between BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore and exported almost 32 million tonnes of thermal coal in the year to the end of June 2016. (Platts, RCNRadio [Spanish])

Adani’s Carmichael project unviable despite court win: The Federal Court of Australia has rejected a legal challenge by the Australian Conservation Foundation which argued the Federal Minister for the Environment failed to consider the impact of the project on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. However, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis estimates Adani would lose US$3 a tonne at expected prices for low-quality thermal coal. (Sydney Morning Herald, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis)

Turkish Government moves to fast-track energy projects: The Turkish Parliament has voted to approve legislation for Cabinet to allow designated “strategic investments” which bypass existing legislation. Proposed coal plants could be approved by Ministers without having to follow current permitting procedures or requirements for environmental impact assessment. The law is now with President Erdogan for approval. (ClientEarth, Blue & Green Tomorrow)

“It’s a pity that one state institution must talk about the other state institution like this. Let me put it blatantly, Eskom is lying!,”

said South African Treasury's chief procurement officer Kenneth Brown after Eskom claimed it was co-operating fully with an investigation into coal supply contracts.

News

Bangladesh: Leader of student group arrested for Facebook post criticising Prime Minister.

Czech Republic: The 820 MW Chvaletice plant shut “for a few weeks” following fire.

India: Two protesters killed after Jharkhand coal plant company cancels land compensation talks.

Indonesia: After storms, two coal barges lie stranded on beaches near Cilacap plant.

Thailand: Minister cancels tour to avoid protest against Bamnet Narong coal plant.

US: Bill signed into law banning California from investment in new coal transport infrastructure.

Companies + Markets

Alaskan coal port mothballed as exports dry up: The Seward coal terminal in Alaska has been mothballed following the final export shipment from the Usibelli Coal Mine near Healy. While the port has the capacity to export 1.5 million tonnes a year, the falling coal price and slowing demand has crippled the company’s export plans. The company continues to supply coal to Alaskan power stations. (NewsMiner.com)

Pakistan coal import ban stalls 13 new plants: The Punjab provincial government wants the Pakistani government to drop its ban on new imported coal plants, complaining 13 proposed plants with a combined capacity of 4180 MW are at risk. The Pakistan Government has directed provinces to end support for new imported-coal projects because of likely over-capacity caused by the commissioning by 2022 of as much as 20,000 MW of new coal and hydro plants. (Dawn)

As China looks to close plants, Shenhua aims to build more: The chief economist of China Guodian Corporation, one of China’s top five utilities, has warned coal utilities will struggle over the next five years, potentially confronting bankruptcy with the likely closure of many smaller plants. However, Shenhua – the largest coal mining company and a major generator – has increased its budget allocation for new power plant construction even though plant utilisation fell by over seven per cent in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2015. (Reuters, South China Morning Post)

India keeps approving new plants: In the last two years the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has granted environmental clearance to 15 thermal plants with a combined capacity of 16,372 MW. “When Modi's power minister himself says additional capacity is not required for 5-6 years, why is MoEF&CC over-enthusiastic about granting the clearances?” asks Pushp Jain, the director of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Resources & Response Centre. (Times of India)

Chinese company seeks rate hike on Pakistan plant: Six months after Pakistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority approved a 30-year power tariff for China-Hub Power Generation Company’s proposed 1320 MW plant, the company is seeking approval due to increased costs of the coal terminal. A consultant to the company argues the current port infrastructure is inadequate for large ships and vulnerable to closure during the monsoon season. (Daily Times)

Coal India flags MOU with South Africa: The board of Coal India, a government-owned company, has approved entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with a South African government agency responsible for exploring and developing coal mines. Coal India’s focus is on metallurgical coal projects. An earlier attempt to develop a project in Mozambique has collapsed. Coal India’s Mozambican subsidiary, Coal India Africana Limitada, has applied to surrender prospecting licences it was granted in April 2009 stating mining is “technically not feasible.” (Business Standard, Livemint)

Resources

Warnings from Vietnam Coal Power, Change, August 2016. (Youtube)
This 16-minute video documents the growing conflict over existing and proposed coal power plants in Vietnam with a particular emphasis on pollution from the Vinh Tan 2 plant in Binh Thuan province, which triggered a mass protest in April 2015.