August 27, 2015
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Mountains of Toxic Coal Sludge Remain After Vietnamese Floods

“Wiping sweat from his forehead, 36-year-old Trinh Duc Sang took big strides along a road covered with muddy coal sludge and dirt to the place that was his home until just three weeks ago … Sang was, until three weeks ago, a coal miner in Cam Pha City, one of the four cities in the northern province of Quang Ninh, a region known for its coal mines, harbours and ports. … None of the coal mining companies in the region was prepared for such heavy rain. All of the traditional coal mines in Cam Pha City, particularly in Quang Hanh and Mong Duong Wards, were severely flooded. Their operations are still paralysed three weeks after the devastating event,” writes Chi Lan from Viet Nam News.

Suggested Tweet: Mountains of toxic #coal sludge remain after #Vietnam’s floods #pollution

In China’s Turmoil, Further Declines for Coal

“The latest demand-side statistics out of China show a continuation of coal-industry pain: Coal imports into China were down 34.4 per cent year-on-year through July; total China coal sales were 305 million tonnes in July, down 4.9 per cent on the year, and declining 7.7 per cent to 1.945 billion tonnes in the first seven months of the year; and China’s manufacturing demand continues at well below average in a trend that is consistent with the near-term equity market collapse and currency devaluation, all suggesting continued weak commodity demand ahead,” writes Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis.
Suggested Tweet: In #China’s turmoil, further declines for #coal writes Tim Buckley from @ieefa_institute

Private Dinners and Lavish Parties: How Coal Giant Adani Charmed Australia's Political Elite

“Why is it that for so long and under such extreme pressure, Australian political leaders of both dominant stripes have stood by one of the most controversial coal projects [Adani’s Carmichael mine] in the country’s history? … Could … [it be that it is due to] the close relationships that the company has managed to forge at the highest levels with Australia’s political leaders?,” writes Graham Readfearn in The Guardian.

Suggested Tweet: Private dinners and lavish parties: How #coal giant #Adani charmed Australia's political elite @readfearn #auspol

Conservative Party Lobbying Against Air Pollution Laws Smells of Political Corruption

“Imagine what this policy would look like, had it appeared in the Conservative Party’s manifesto: ‘We will lobby the European Union on behalf of polluting industries to reduce proposed smoke controls, endangering lives, threatening the cognitive health of both children and adults and damaging the country’s competitive position.’ Because it is inconceivable that such a policy could be publicly announced, its pursuit can be understood as an assault on democracy. It reminds us that corruption, like pollution, is not the preserve of either the past or of other parts of the world; it is a potent force in Britain too. Like pollution, it seeps into our lives, invisible but pervasive,” writes George Monbiot in the Guardian.

Suggested Tweet: #UK Conservative Party lobbying against air #pollution laws smells of political #corruption @GeorgeMonbiot #coal


Lummi Nation Totem Pole Tours Proposed Pacific Northwest Coal Sites

A 6.7-metre high totem pole carved by members of the Lummi Nation of Washington State is touring communities affected by proposed coal export terminals in Washington State, British Columbia and Oregon. The 2400 kilometre tour by truck will conclude in the Otter Creek Valley in Montana at the site of the proposed Otter Creek coal mine. The proposed Cherry Point coal terminal in Washington State is on a Lummi Nation ancestral site and in traditional fishing grounds. The totem pole – which is designed on the theme of ensuring wise decisions are made to protect the environment – is being hosted by tribal and interfaith groups. (Missoulian, Al Jazeera)

Suggested Tweet: Lummi Nation totem pole tour against US Pacific NW #coal exports

top news

Indonesian politician charged with corruption over coal licence: Former Indonesian politician Arya Adriansyah has been charged with corruption for allegedly accepting over US$100,000 in bribes for issuing a mining permit while he was a district government official. Adriansyah, who was elected to the Indonesian House of Representatives in 2014, had been the regent of Tanah Laut district in South Kalimantan between 2003 and 2013. Three payments to Adriansyah are alleged to have been made by businessman Andrew Hidayat between November 2014 and April this year. (Jakarta Post)

Chinese legislators discuss coal cap proposal: The National People's Congress, China’s national parliament, is expected to approve amendments to the Air Pollution Law to make local governments directly responsible for meeting air quality targets. Draft amendments under consideration also include provisions to establish a coal consumption cap and restrict low-grade imports. However, legislators will not include a specific timeline for meeting the coal cap despite lobbying by environmental groups. (Reuters)

Farmer revolt grows over Shenhua’s NSW mine plan: The powerful National Farmers Federation has objected to moves by the federal government to remove legal provisions allowing groups to challenge the approval of major projects such as mines. The farmers’ lobby group pointed out that the government unveiled its proposed amendment to environmental laws a week after the New South Wales Farmers Association, Cotton Australia, the Irrigators Council and the Caroona Coal Action Group (CCAG) asked Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to provide his reasons for approving Shenhua’s Watermark mine. (Guardian)
Indian coal port plan dropped: The major Indian construction company Larsen & Tourbo (L&T) has dropped its plan to build a new coal and general cargo port at Kacchigadh to service a 2000 megawatt coal plant it proposed to build in Gujarat state. The Gujarat Maritime Board said an environmental survey had found the proposed site “was full of corals and mangroves” prompting L&T to drop the plan. While the company cited environmental issues as its reason for dropping the proposal, a director of Mantrana Maritime Advisory believes the company should also have explained that it wasn’t financially viable. (Livemint)

India wrestles over Paris climate commitment: Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has rejected the proposal by the government ‘s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian that India’s submission to the Paris Climate Change Conference drop a request for climate finance and instead insist only on seeking support for ‘clean coal’. Subramanian had also argued that India should distance itself from global South negotiating groups and instead create a coalition with coal-dependent countries such as Australia and Poland. (Business Standard)

Bankrupt US coal company’s secret donations: A creditor document filed by Alpha Natural Resources in support of its application for bankruptcy protection reveals the company made previously undisclosed donations to pro-Republican campaigns and pro-coal groups including Americans for Prosperity and the Institute for Energy Research. The amount of the donations is not disclosed. The document also reveals the company funded Christopher Horner, an attorney known for his investigations into, and ridicule of, climate scientists. (The Intercept, The Intercept)

“We have been carrying out advanced measures to prevent bigger flooding, but another big rain and our mines will be doomed,”

said Mong Duong company chief of staff Vu Ngoc Xuan. The company’s mines, which were flooded in late July, may be closed for a further two months.


Australia: Complaint lodged with Queensland anti-corruption agency over coal company’s donations.

India: Adani signs MOU with Chhattisgarh Government for US$3.7 billion coal gasification and power plant.

Indonesia: Despite concern over pollution and the island’s reputation, Bali coal plant commissioned.
North Korea: Early September discussions on expanding coal trade with Russia and South Korea.

Scotland: Opposition to underground coal gasification project leads to Forth project delay.

US: Post-Soros investment share price bounce for Peabody Energy and Arch Coal may be short-lived.

“We can't bring electricity to the rural areas of the world using an old-fashioned industrial grid based on building more coal plants and running copper lines from timber pole to timber pole across Sub-Saharan Africa, or running cables underwater to connect the archipelago of Indonesia … The environment and financial impediments make that impossible. Instead, we'll do it with modern technology: solar and other clean energy sources, new kinds of batteries, LED lights, efficient cook stoves and TVs, and plenty of innovations that now are surfacing,”

writes Jim Rogers, the former Chief Executive of US power and gas utility Duke Energy.

companies + markets

Vietnamese coal port seeks US Ex-Im funding: The proposed US$2.5 billion Hon Khoai Port in Vietnam – which is intended to have half its 12 berths dedicated for coal imports – may seek up to 85 per cent of its finance from the US Export-Import Bank, if the Bank’s authority is reauthorised by US Congress. The port was subject to a feasibility study by the US construction company Bechtel. However, Graham Ong-Webb from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore believes the proposal only makes financial sense with the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding between China and Thailand to build the Kra Canal through Thailand’s Kra Isthmus, allowing ships to bypass the busy port hubs of Singapore and Malaysia. (The Straits Times, Thanh Nien News)

Indonesian coal production slides: The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources’ estimate for Indonesian coal production over the first seven months of 2015 was 233 million tonnes, a 15 per cent fall compared to 2014. While the Ministry’s projects production this year will be about 425 million tonnes, the Indonesian Coal Mining Association argues it could be substantially lower than 400 million tonnes. The government projects 2016 production will be around 400 million tonnes. (Jakarta Post)
Total exits coal: French oil and gas company Total has announced that it will sell its coal marketing business by the end of 2016 as a part of its exit from the coal industry. Total’s sale of its South African coal subsidiary, which produced 4 million tonnes in 2013 and included a stake in the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, took effect on August 20. In its announcement, Total’s Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanné said that “we cannot claim to be providing solutions to climate change while continuing to produce or market coal, the fossil fuel that emits more greenhouse gas than any other.” (Total)

BHP Billiton downgrades Chinese steel production estimate: BHP Billiton, the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal, has downgraded its estimate of Chinese peak steel production. Announcing its annual results, BHP Billiton said it now estimated Chinese steel production would peak in the mid-2020’s at between 935 and 985 million tonnes. It had previously estimated it would peak at 1 billion tonnes between 2025 and 2030. Lower steel production will reduce demand for metallurgical coal. (Mining Weekly, BHP Billiton)


India’s Coal Rush Triggers Climate-Change Fears, Al Jazeera, August 19, 2015. (Youtube)

This excellent 8-minute video provides a good overview of the damage caused to villagers, forests and the democratic rights of citizens by the Indian Government’s support for a dramatic expansion of coal mining and power stations.

Energy Darwinism II: Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth, Citi, August 2015. (Large Pdf)

This report concludes that the costs of a transition to a low carbon energy future are low compared to the costs of doing little. The report includes short sections on the decreasing viability of coal producers, the risk of stranded assets and doubts that many Carbon Capture and Storage plants will be built.

take action

Sign on for global moratorium on new coal mines

The Australia Institute has launched a petition to French President Francois Hollande calling for a global moratorium on new coal mines. Sign-on to the petition here.

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