August 18, 2016
Issue 146  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

Around the world many long-running campaigns have made remarkable progress in the last week. After a decade-long campaign by New South Wales farmers, BHP Billiton has finally been forced to abandon its Caroona thermal coal project. In the US, a judge has overwhelmingly dismissed a coal industry appeal against a decision by Oregon’s environmental regulator rejecting a proposed coal terminal. In Poland, the assessment of a major coal mine proposal has been suspended due to the lack of adequate information to the environmental regulator. In the Philippines existing coal plants and the country’s largest coal mine are being audited for compliance with their environmental permits. 

Despite many projects foundering, Chinese-backed coal projects are proliferating in Africa and numerous other banks remain willing to fund more coal plants elsewhere.

Bob Burton

Features

China's growing role as funder of Africa’s proposed coal plant boom

Chinese banks and power companies are behind more than half the proposed coal plants in Africa outside South Africa, writes Christine Shearer in EndCoal.

Despite Paris Agreement, major banks keep backing coal plants

Despite pledges at the Paris climate conference to limit emissions, major banks remain willing to finance a raft of new coal plants around the world, writes Keith Schneider in Circle of Blue.

Campaigns

Grassroots campaign forces NSW Government to cancel Caroona coal mine lease

A decade-long grassroots campaign by farmers has forced the NSW Government to buy back the exploration licence for BHP Billiton’s proposed Caroona Coal Project. The government has agreed to buy the licence for US$170 million in order to cancel it. Between 2008 and 2010 farmers blockaded BHP Billiton’s attempts to explore for the proposed 10 million tonnes a year underground thermal coal mine. Deputy Premier of NSW, Troy Grant, conceded the “subsidence risk here was significant.” While farmers also want the government to block the nearby Watermark coal project proposed by Shenhua, at this stage the government is only seeking boundary adjustments to the licence area. (ABC News, Northern Daily Leader)

US court upholds Oregon’s rejection of new coal port permit

Opponents of the proposed Coyote Island coal terminal have had a major win with an administrative law judge upholding the right of the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) to reject the project on the grounds it was inconsistent with state laws to protect fishing and other water users. Webster rejected all seven elements of the challenge to the DSL decision. However, the proponents have the option of continuing their appeal at a November hearing on the evidence of environmental impacts. The port, which is proposed by Lighthouse Resources for the Columbia River, aims to allow coal producers in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming easier access to the global coal market. (Flathead Beacon, Earthjustice)

Poland suspends huge lignite mine plan

Faced with a strong community campaign the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection (RDEP) for the city of Gorzow Wielkopolski has suspended the environmental permit for a huge new lignite mine. RDEP determined documents submitted by PGE Mining and Conventional Energy did not accurately address the environmental impacts of the mine, which was proposed to fuel a new 2700 megawatt (MW) coal plant. The mine would require the relocation of 3000 people from 15 affected villages and has twice been rejected in local referenda. (EnergyDesk)

Top News

Filipino coal plants’ environmental compliance under review: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has ordered a review of Environmental Compliance Certificates of existing coal plants in the country. However, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice has called for clarification on whether this will also include the 12 proposed coal plants with a combined capacity of 3398 MW which are set to be commissioned by 2019. (Our Daily News, Manila Bulletin)

Philippines’ largest coal mine subject to audit: The operations of Semirara Mining and Power Corporation, which operates the country’s largest coal mine, will be audited by officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Energy. Complaints against the mine include water pollution, damage to adjoining coral reefs, the displacement of local residents and unsafe working conditions. (Philippines Star)

China counts coal rehabilitation costs: Shanxi, the largest coal-producing province in China, plans to relocate 655,000 residents by the end of 2017 from areas rendered unsafe for habitation due to underground coal mining. China’s land ministry plans to spend US$11.27 billion over the next five years remediating damage caused by coal mining and estimates as much as 10,000 square kilometres has been affected by 26,000 coal mining-induced geological disasters. (Reuters)

North Carolina health official resigns over coal ash: North Carolina’s top public health epidemiologist, Megan Davies, has resigned after state officials claimed Health and Human Services (HHS) Department toxicologist, Ken Rudo, was “unprofessional.” Rudo had testified the government had downplayed the health impacts of chromium pollution from Duke Energy coal ash pits on residents’ drinking water supplies. Davies stated she could not work for an agency and administration which “deliberately misleads the public.” North Carolina’s Governor, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years. (Winston-Salem Journal, Bloomberg BNA)

News

Bangladesh: Sundarbans coal project threatens remaining habitat of the endangered pangolin.

China: Explosion caused by faulty steam pipe at new coal plant kills 21 workers.

Czech Republic: Coal baron becomes lightning rod for political discontent.

Israel: Protest disrupts parliamentary debate on whether to mothball or upgrade Orot Rabin plant.

US: When Kemper CCS plant was faltering, Southern Company spruiked technology globally.

US: Cloud Peak Energy executive advised coal companies on “lessons from the tobacco wars.”

Companies + Markets

Australian rail company writes off Galilee project: Aurizon has written off US$23 million spent assessing the feasibility of upgrading the Central Queensland Coal Network to cater for Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin. In its annual report Aurizon stated “due to uncertainty surrounding the project’s timing and the current market outlook” and has written the value of the project down to zero. (Aurizon)

Fallout from Turkish import tax: The Turkish Government’s US$15 a tonne import tax on thermal coal is expected to hit exports from South Africa, Colombia and Russia but may stimulate further imports from Poland. Traders have reportedly canvassed the option of unloading and reloading coal shipments in countries such as Egypt, which is exempt from the tax. Earlier this year the Turkish Government unveiled a plan to offer annual power-purchase agreements for private coal generators provided they used local coal. (Platts, Platts)

China’s coal consumption decline accelerates: China’s coal production fell by 9.7 per cent in the first half of 2016 with coal consumption falling by 5.1 per cent compared to the same period the year before. The National Development and Reform Commission also reported less than half of the target of cutting 250 million tonnes of coal capacity and 45 million tonnes of steel production this year has been achieved. To ensure targets are met the government plans to use stricter enforcement of environmental, safety, energy efficiency and financial controls. (Xinhua, Reuters)

Falls in Chinese and Indian imports may undercut coal price hikes: Coal shipping data suggests Chinese coal imports in August may fall by about 30 per cent over July levels. The data also suggests there will be an 18 per cent fall in Indian imports in August over July levels. In 2016 the price of thermal coal exported from Newcastle into the Pacific market has risen by over 40 per cent. Further declines in Chinese and Indian imports would “call into question the sustainability of the rally in coal prices,” writes Reuters analyst Clyde Russell. (Reuters)

BHP Billiton unveils major coal losses: BHP Billiton, which produced 43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal and 34 million tonnes of thermal coal, has reported a US$349 million loss in the 2015-16 financial year. The company reported a US$82 million impairment on its IndoMet Coal mine in Indonesia, which it has sold to Adaro Energy. It also reported a US$24 million loss on its one-third share of the Cerrejon thermal coal mine in Colombia. The company stated it expects short-term metallurgical coal projects to “trend lower” as increased volume from new projects in Australia and Mozambique outstrips mine closures. (BHP Billiton)

Resources

Coal's Lonely Lobbyists, Climate Investigations Center, August 2016. (Pdf)

This 27-page report documents the falling membership of the peak US and global coal industry lobby groups, the National Mining Association, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and the World Coal Association.

“Renewables get the job done despite scepticism”, Brookings Institute, August 11, 2016.

This article briefly reviews and critiques the most common technical arguments used against increased renewable power generation.

India’s Questionable Ultra Mega Power Plans, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, August 2016. (Pdf)

This 32-page report documents the rise and fall of India’s proposed 4000 MW ‘Ultra Mega Power Projects’ and argues two proposed UMPP’s in Odisha and Tamil Nadu are likely to be far more expensive than alternatives.