July 21, 2016
Issue #143  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

A new Amnesty International report has found three new Coal India mines flouted India’s law and pushed aside indigenous Adivasis in the company’s rush to rapidly expand coal production. Now, frustrated villagers have pushed Coal India to concede ground. The district administration and the company have agreed to investigate pollution complaints, breaches of environmental conditions, violations of the Forest Rights Act and to provide employment to mine-affected families.

A US appeals court has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to revoke a permit for an Arch Coal mine which would have obliterated over 11 kilometres of streams with waste from mountaintop removal.

Meanwhile the coal industry’s sales pitch of ‘cheap and reliable’ power is losing its lustre. Botswana’s Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has lamented “we’ve learned a painful, hard lesson” over the trouble-plagued Morupule B plant which was recently built by a Chinese company at a cost of about US$1 billion.

Bob Burton

Features

Indigenous Adivasis have forced Coal India to concede ground

An eight-day blockade of a Coal India mine in Chhattisgarh by indigenous Adivasis reflects growing opposition to pollution, lack of compensation for lost land and a lack of employment, writes Abhinav Gupta in Scroll.in.

South Korea must choose energy future: dirty coal or renewables?

South Korea’s plan to commission new coal plants despite its commitments under the Paris Agreement may spur international pressure to backtrack, writes Kim Jeong-su in the South Korean news site The Hankyoreh.

How a big coal blunder gave Mississippi a chance for cleaner air

When Mississippi Power became mired in legal actions it created the impetus for the utility, which had long resisted a community campaign to end the use of coal at the Jack Watson Electric Generating Plant, to agree to convert the two units to gas and drop its opposition to renewables, writes Adam Lynch in Yes Magazine.

Campaigns

US appeals court upholds EPA’s cancellation of mountaintop mine permit

A US federal appeals court has rejected Arch Coal’s appeal which sought to overturn a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency revoking a Clean Water Act permit for the proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. In January 2011 the EPA rescinded a permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers which allowed an Arch Coal subsidiary to obliterate eleven kilometres of streams with waste from mountaintop removal. The ruling has been welcomed by environmental groups which have called on the coal industry to accept the science on damage to water quality from mountaintop removal. (Charleston Gazette-Mail, Earthjustice)

Top News

Amnesty report finds Coal India violates rights: An Amnesty International investigation of Coal India’s Kusmunda mine in Chhattisgarh, Tetariakhar mine in Jharkhand and Basundhara-West mine in Odisha found widespread violation of human rights of indigenous Adivasi communities. The report found Coal India’s subsidiaries failed to consult village assemblies, as required under law, before decisions were made to proceed with the three mines. Amnesty International notes leading Adivasi communities are now opposing the expansion of the mines they previously supported until past violations are addressed. (Amnesty International)

Call for investigation into Myanmar military’s mine: A coalition of civil society groups has called for an investigation into whether a coal mine near Namsan in Shan state has Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation permits to operate and if so who owns the operation. Late last year land used by a dozen farmers was seized by the military and mining at the site commenced. A nearby cement plant operated by the Kanbawza Group has confirmed they source coal from local mines including purchase from a member of the military, Major Chit Ko. Ko confirmed mining coal but insisted it was under army orders. (Myanmar Times)

Botswana concedes it was burned by Chinese coal plant: The Botswanan Government has complained that China National Electric Equipment Corporation, which built the 600 megawatt (MW)  Morupule B plant at a cost of about US$1 billion, “failed us dismally.” The plant has been plagued by equipment failures and runs at about one-third of its rated capacity. “We’ve burned our fingers with Morupule B - we’ve learned a painful, hard lesson,” said Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi. (Bloomberg)

US Republican platform backs coal: The US Republican Party’s energy platform describes coal as “clean”, has pledged to “do away” with the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions and block the implementation of the Clean Water Rule which has constrained mountaintop removal mining. The platform sets no targets for clean energy and opposes federal tax credits for renewable energy, which has stimulated wind generation. (SNL, Washington Post)

UK Lord lobbied for coal: Viscount Matt Ridley, a Conservative Party member of the House of Lords who receives some income from coal mining on his estate in Northumberland, wrote to the then UK Minister for Energy, Lord Bourne, promoting a US company which touted converting carbon dioxide from power plants to chemical feedstocks. Ridley is also a columnist in the Times, the most prominent UK climate change sceptic and an advisory council member of climate sceptic lobby group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. (Guardian)

UN criticises Germany for increasing fossil fuel subsidies: The United Nations special envoy on climate change, Mary Robinson, has criticised Germany for increasing fossil fuel subsidies in breach of the terms of the Paris Agreement. While noting Germany had said it would end coal subsidies by 2018 she criticised the Government’s plan for capacity payments for diesel and coal plants. The UK, which has also introduced capacity payments for some coal until 2025, was also criticised for providing tax breaks for oil and gas while cutting support for renewable power and energy efficiency. (Guardian)

News

Australia: Ex-NSW Minister and son charged over creation of coal licence over family farm.

Cambodia: Prime Minister’s niece revealed as chairwoman of company with “huge deposit of coal.”

Chile: Chabunco submits environmental impact study (EIS) for Tranquilo mine in Magallanes region.

Kenya: EIS on proposed Lamu plant, East Africa’s first, open to public comment for one month.

South Africa: With slowing demand and increasing generation, Eskom aims to boost power exports.

US: More time allowed for Texas “clean coal” project to find finance despite missing deadline.

Companies + Markets

Murray Energy seeks to avert bankruptcy: Murray Energy, one of the largest private US coal companies with debts of about US$3 billion, is seeking to renegotiate agreements with lenders in a bid to stave off bankruptcy. The company, which owns coal mines in the US and Colombia, has launched legal challenges to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan and in late June donated US$100,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a group supporting Donald Trump’s campaign to become US President. (Reuters, Federal Election Commission)

Panama Canal expansion may have mixed impact: Analysts believe the expansion of the Panama Canal may allow increased exports of Canadian metallurgical coal to the European and Brazilian markets, as well as exports of US east coast metallurgical coal and Colombian thermal coal to the Asian market. The upgrading of the canal, which was completed in June, allows ships carrying 130,000 tonnes to use the canal, where previously the maximum load was 65,000 tonnes. (Platts)

Indian imports tipped to keep falling: India’s Power and Coal Minister, Piyush Goyal, has told Parliament coal imports have already fallen by five per cent in the first two months of the new financial year and are estimated to drop to 160 million tonnes in the 2016-17 financial year. Goyal stated Indian coal imports were 217.78 million tonnes in 2014-15 and 199.88 million tonnes in 2015-16. Increased production from Coal India, which produces 80 per cent of domestic coal, is undermining demand for more expensive imports. (Financial Express)

China’s coal production plummets in 2016: In the first six months of 2016 Chinese domestic coal production fell by 9.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2015. While coal imports increased by 8.2 per cent over the same period, thermal coal use declined more than metallurgical coal. With 15-times more coal produced domestically than imported, the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis estimates that, assuming stockpiles remain unchanged, Chinese consumption of coal may have fallen by 8.8 per cent in the first half of the year compared to last year. (Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis)

Swedish pension fund cuts fossil fuels: The Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund, known as AP4, will “decarbonise” its US$14.7 billion global shares portfolio by 2020. Announcing its half-yearly results the fund’s CEO, Mats Andersson, said “we believe that a lower exposure to fossil resources will benefit AP4's long-term returns.” (Financial Times [$], Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund)

Divestment pressure forces restructure on X2: X2 Resources, a company founded to invest in mining projects sold off as commodity prices crashed, is being forced to restructure before completing any deals after some institutional investors, including the Canadian pension fund PSP, baulked at buying Rio Tinto’s thermal coal projects on environmental grounds. Former chief executive of Xstrata, Mick Davis, founded X2 Resources in 2013 on the basis of shareholders each contributing US$500 million and having veto power on proposed investments. (Financial Times, Australian Financial Review [$])

Resources

Enough Already: Meeting 2°C Powder River Basin Coal Demand Without Lifting the Federal Moratorium, Carbon Tracker, Energy Transition Advisors and Earth Track, July 2016. (Pdf)

This 31-page report finds that without any new federal coal leases being issued sufficient coal has been allocated to supply demand until 2040, assuming the aim is to limit warming to 2°C.

When Land Is Lost, Do We Eat Coal?  Coal mining and violations of Adivasi rights in India, Amnesty International, July 2016. (Pdf) (An overview video is here and a video case study on the Kusmunda mine in Chhattisgarh here.)

This 80-page report investigates land acquisition and mining by Coal India subsidiaries at three sites in different states and finds they have all violated Indian law and international human rights standards for ensuring the rights of local communities.