June 30, 2016
Issue #140  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The fast receding coal boom has left a deadly legacy behind in Indonesia: abandoned coal pits close to villages which have claimed the lives of 25 children over the last five years in the province of East Kalimantan. It is a story which has sparked debate over the high costs of mining and the failure of governments at every level to protect the rights of citizens. Meanwhile in the US a campaign by a coalition of groups has all but defeated a proposed new coal export terminal in Oakland.

The world has been rocked by the results of the Brexit vote last week. It will be some time before the implications of Brexit for climate, coal and renewables policy becomes clear. CoalWire will include links to the best summaries when the dust has settled a little more.

Bob Burton


The death toll climbs from abandoned coal pits in Indonesia

The deaths of numerous children from drowning in abandoned coal mining pits in East Kalimantan in Indonesia highlights the lack of appropriate enforcement of mining rehabilitation requirements writes Tessa Toumbourou in Inside Indonesia.

Why does the Colombian coal industry need help from a London lobby group?

The move by the Colombian Mining Association to join the World Coal Association, the coal industry’s global lobbying group, reflects growing panic among coal exporters as opposition to coal mining and burning grows and global markets shrink, write Bob Burton and Richard Solly in EndCoal.

As Australia prepares to vote, the two largest parties try to duck the coal issue

As Australians prepare to vote in the July 2 federal election neither of the major parties has been prepared to speak out against new coal projects despite historically high support for action on climate change, writes Sarah Gill in the Sydney Morning Herald.


Oakland Council unanimously votes to block new US coal terminal 

Oakland City Council voted 7-0 to ban the transport and storage of coal in Oakland, blocking a plan for a coal export facility to be built as part of a multi-cargo port development. A final vote on applying the coal ban to the proposed Oakland port project is scheduled for July 19. (New York Times, Sierra Club)

Top News

Indonesian human rights agency criticises coal mining enforcement: The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has expressed alarm that government officials have neglected their responsibilities to monitor coal mining in East Kalimantan and ensure public safety. The criticism follows 25 deaths from drowning in abandoned coal pits over the last five years. Komnas HAM commissioner, Siti Noor Laila, called on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to investigate minesite rehabilitation payments by companies in the three regions in which the deaths have occurred. (Jakarta Post, Reuters)

International Energy Agency warns change energy policy to cut death toll: The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned premature deaths from outdoor air pollution could increase from the current 3 million a year to 4.5 million in 2040 unless there are significant changes to energy generation. The IEA estimates 90 per cent of the increased deaths would occur in Asia. The IEA suggests the death toll could be cut by stricter pollution controls on coal-fired power plants, the increased use of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. (Reuters, RenewEconomy)

North Carolina’s sweetheart deal on Duke Energy’s coal ash dams: The North Carolina legislature is set to pass legislation ensuring there will be no independent commission monitoring Governor McCrory’s regulation of Duke Energy’s coal ash dams. The legislation, which proposes to allow Duke Energy additional time to clean up its coal ash dams, has been criticised by environmental groups as a capitulation to Duke Energy. In February 2014 a major leak from the coal ash dam at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant polluted the Dan River. (Charlotte Observer, WRAL.com)

Poland misuses European Union emissions allowances: An investigation has found coal infrastructure accounts for up to 70 per cent of the projects funded by Polish power companies from the returns from free European Union greenhouse gas emission allowances. When the European Council granted Poland a right to allocate 70 per cent of its allowances for free until 2020 and 40 per cent in the 2021-2030 period, power companies were supposed to modernise infrastructure and diversify the country away from its reliance on coal for 80 per cent of its electricity. (ClientEarth Poland)

Gore calls on Sweden to keep coal in the ground: The Swedish Government is under increasing pressure to block Vattenfall’s proposed sale of its German lignite mines and plants to Czech company EPH. Former US Vice President Al Gore has joined religious and other community leaders’ call for the sale to be cancelled. Gore tweeted “Sweden should champion the spirit of the Paris Agreement by working with Germany to keep coal in the ground & promote clean energy solutions.” (Al Gore)


Australia: Global coral reef scientists call on PM to end support for coal exports and new mines.

Egypt: General Electric and Harbin agree on proposed 6510 megawatt (MW) plant at unspecified location.

Jordan: Environmentalists protest country’s first proposed coal plant.

UK: Over 10,000 objections to proposed Druridge Bay coal mine ahead of July 5 council vote.

US:  Murray Energy CEO hosts US$5000-a-head fundraiser for Donald Trump campaign.

Companies + Markets

Panama Canal expansion opens opportunities for Colombian coal: The commissioning of the Panama Canal expansion, which was designed to cater for larger ships, may increase thermal coal exports from Colombia to the Pacific coal market. In a bid to offset declining European imports, Colombian coal exporters have recently sent trial shipments to Japan and South Korea. Coal shipped through the Panama Canal can cut as much as 15 days off the travel time of alternative routes. (Reuters)

BHP Billiton drops plan to refinance Newcastle port: BHP Billiton has dropped a plan to raise US$500 million to refinance an existing loan on its 37 per cent stake in the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG). NCIG operates a coal terminal in Newcastle, the world’s largest coal export port. “It wasn't a problem with BHP, it was more a coal market-specific problem,” stated an analyst with FIIG Securities. After NCIG’s June 10 announcement, Moody’s cut the rating of the company’s debt to junk status. (Reuters, Moody’s)

Russia looks to expand eastwards: Speaking at an international coal conference Russia’s Energy Minister, Alexander Novak, said new coal mining and processing centres in the country’s east are central to the country’s plan to increase coal exports. In 2015 Russian coal production grew by 15 million tonnes to 373 million tonnes. Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky estimates both production and exports are likely to increase by 10 million tonnes in 2016. (TASS, TASS)

China trims coal and steel production: To reduce pollution and lift the profitability of the massively over-supplied coal and steel sectors, China’s National Development and Reform Commission has announced 280 million tonnes of coal-mining capacity and 45 million tonnes of steel capacity will be closed this year. China has flagged planned cuts of an additional 250 million tonnes of coal production and between 55 to 105 million tonnes of steel production by 2020 with the relocation of 1.8 million coal and steel workers. (Bloomberg, Platts)

Mass retrenchments at Zimbabwean coal mine: Zimbabwe Deputy Mines Minister Fred Moyo has told parliament Hwange Colliery Ltd, which is 37 per cent government-owned, plans to slash its 3000-strong workforce in a bid to remain viable. Reports differ on whether Moyo stated 1000 or 1500 jobs would be cut at the mine which produces coal for the Hwange Power Station, the country’s largest coal plant. The High Court has approved a deal suspending legal actions against Hwange pending a July 14 meeting of creditors who are owed over US$160 million. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

Confusion reigns over Indonesian limits on exports to Philippines: The Indonesian government announced a ban on coal exports to the Philippines until security could be guaranteed after seven Indonesian seamen on a tugboat towing a coal barge were abducted in southern Philippines waters. The Philippines Department of Energy said the latest ban could spell problems for power generators as Indonesia supplies 95 percent of the coal used in the Philippines. Confusion remains as to whether the ban applies only to Indonesian-flagged vessels or also includes coal ships registered elsewhere. (Philippine Star, Philippine Star)


World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Air Pollution, International Energy Agency (IEA), June 2016. (Pdf)

In its first-ever report on energy, air quality and health the IEA estimates deaths from outdoor air pollution could increase from 3 million a year now to 4.5 million by 2040 with the energy sector a major contributor. Executive summaries of the 266-page report are available in English, French and Chinese.

“Limbo Land”, Australian Story, ABC TV, June 27, 2016.

This half-hour program documents the struggle of a farming family adjoining the Maules Creek mine in the NSW Hunter Valley to sell their farm when noise and dust pollution became far worse than they expected.

Derogations from a transition: Free EU ETS allowances for the electricity sector in Poland, ClientEarth Poland, June 2016. (Pdf)

This 48-page report reveals most of the greenhouse gas emission allowances allocated to Poland by the European Commission and given to power generators for free have been used to fund coal-related infrastructure rather than diversifying the country’s power sector away from coal.

“Germany overhauls its flagship energy policy”, Chinadialogue, June 27, 2016.

This article provides a good overview of how legislative changes proposed by the German Government are designed to cap the rate of renewables’ growth and protect old coal-based utilities.  (An article in Energy Transition details how policy changes have shifted new renewables from citizen-owned projects to investor-owned companies.)

The Economics of Coal Leasing on Federal Lands: Ensuring a Fair Return to Taxpayers, White House Council of Economic Advisors, June 2016. (Pdf)

This 34-page report concludes the US Government’s federal lands coal leasing program costs taxpayers billions of dollars in lost revenue due to a flawed approach to valuing coal, inadequate oversight and major royalty loopholes.