September 23, 2015
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editor's note

This week we have a special profile on BHP Billiton, one of the world’s largest coal exporters with operations in Indonesia, Colombia, the US and Australia. We analyse a speech made last week by the head of their coal division and a project they have announced to hype the Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage project in Canada.


BHP Billiton’s mission to save the coal industry

“BHP Billiton – the world’s largest mining company – sees itself as being on a James Bond-style mission to snatch the future of the coal industry from the jaws of defeat at the UN’s Paris climate change conference in December,” writes Bob Burton on EndCoal.

Suggested Tweet: #BHPBilliton’s mission to save the #coal industry @bobburtonoz

BHP Billiton’s Boundary Dam carbon fudge

“As the UN’s global climate change conference looms and the political isolation of the coal industry grows, BHP Billiton has unveiled plans to spruik the Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in Canada as a ‘solution’ to climate change,” writes Bob Burton in Renew Economy.

Suggested Tweet: #BHPBilliton’s Boundary Dam carbon fudge @bobburtonoz @renew_economy #CCS

Sacred Lands vs. King Coal in US Pacific Northwest

“Under the breaking waves of Lummi Bay in northwest Washington, salmon, clams, geoducks and oysters are washed in rhythmic cascades from the Pacific Ocean. Just north of here is Cherry Point, home for three intimately related threatened and endangered species: herring, Chinook salmon, and orcas. It is also the home of the Lummi Nation, who call themselves the Lhaq’temish (LOCK-tuh-mish), or the People of the Sea … The Lummi Nation is currently fighting the largest proposed coal export terminal on the continent,” writes Stephen Quirke in the Earth Island Journal.

Suggested Tweet:  Sacred Lands vs. King #Coal in US Pacific Northwest writes Stephen Quirke @earthislandjrnl

It’s past time for OECD countries to axe support for overseas coal

“Just a few months before landmark climate change negotiations in Paris – a little-known working group within the OECD met to discuss a big issue: should rich countries continue to push dirty coal technologies overseas, or should they finally set some limits on financing climate destruction?” writes Alex Doukas in Oil Change International.

Suggested Tweet:  It’s past time for OECD countries to axe support for overseas coal and to #StopFundingFossils writes @adoukas @PriceofOil

top news

Northern Cheyenne vote against new US coal railway: The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council has voted 9-0 to oppose the proposed Tongue River Railroad in Montana on the grounds it would harm the tribe’s way of life and the resources on the reservation.  The proposed 67 kilometre-long railway is essential infrastructure if coal from Arch Coal’s proposed Otter Creek mine is to gain access to proposed ports on the US west coast. (Great Falls Tribune, Billings Gazette)

Coal corruption charges to proceed against ex-Bangladeshi PM: The Bangladesh High Court has cleared the way for former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and 5 others to be tried on corruption charges. The Anti-Corruption Commission alleges that the contract entered into with China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) to operate the Barapukuria mine deprived the national government of over US$20 million. Zia is leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and argues the charges are politically motivated. The mine and its proposed expansion have been strongly resisted by local villagers. (Economic Times, CoalSwarm)

China’s fading coal industry offers climate hope: “Coal use has reached its peak,” said Jiang Kejun, a senior researcher at China’s Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, which oversees economic planning and climate change policy. While coal consumption has stalled greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and public concern about air pollution remains. In its next five-year plan, due to be completed in early 2016, the Chinese Government will elaborate on how it will reduce air pollution and whether to implement an emissions trading scheme or an administratively simpler carbon tax. (New York Times)
Human rights group finds Sundarbans plant breaches standards: A fact-finding mission by South Asians for Human Rights has found numerous flaws in the environmental impact statement and resettlement process for the proposed 1320 megawatt (MW) Rampal power station. The investigation also found that local people and activists “have been constantly harassed by powerful quarters through threats, intimidation, assaults and filing of false cases.” Three companies – Marubeni Corporation from Japan, Harbin Electric International Company from China and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited from India – have submitted bids for the project. (South Asians for Human Rights, Dhaka Tribune)

Investigation finds pilot error caused coal ship accident in Canada: A Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada report into the June 2014 grounding of a coal ship In British Columbia found the ship followed an unusual route before hitting a shoal. A local pilot was on the bridge of the Japanese-owned Amakusa Island at the time of the accident. While the collision caused a 30-metre split in a section of the hull, the TSB said the accident could have ruptured the oil tanks if the ship was travelling faster. (CBC, CoalSwarm)

Dramatic increase in air pollution concern in India: A Pew Research Center survey has found a 22 per cent increase over the last year in the number of Indians who say air pollution is a very big problem.  A further 19 per cent said it was a “moderately big problem.” 73 per cent said they are “very concerned” about air pollution, with the level increasing to “nearly” 90 per cent of those living in the hotter north of the country. The poll was based on face-to-face surveys of 2452 people in April and May. (Pew Research Center)

“Claims that coal combustion is a health disaster just don't add up,”

wrote Greg Evans, the Executive Director - Coal for the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), the peak mining lobby group. The MCA represents companies including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Adani and Peabody Energy.


Ghana: Government utility negotiating with Shenzhen Energy of China for 2000 MW coal plant.

Philippines: Department of Environment and Natural Resources calls for coal plant permits freeze.

Philippines: Department of Energy allows largest mine to resume production after deadly landslide.
South Africa: Gold bullion producer invests in coal miner to source coal for new power plant.

South Africa: Legal challenge lodged against granting of mining licence in protected wetland.

US: Residents voice strong opposition to proposed coal port at Oakland City Council hearing.

companies + markets

German state proposes reducing Garzweiler mine resource by a third: The state government of North-Rhine Westphalia has proposed reducing the permitted extent of RWE’s vast Garzweiler II mine by 400 million tonnes, a third of the available resource. The reduced footprint of the mine would block plans to demolish the village of Holzweiler, which is home to 1400 people. The Garzweiler mine, which supplies lignite to two new generating units at the Neurath power station, was the site of a one-day blockade by over 1000 people in mid-August. (Reuters)

Australian governments face rehabilitation funding shortfall: An environmental adviser to the mining industry has warned that rehabilitation bonds held by state governments – including for major coal mines in Queensland – could be tens of billions of dollars less than required. Concern has been raised that companies are seeking approvals for mine expansions as a way of deferring rehabilitation liabilities. (ABC News)

European power companies looking to offload coal plants: Swedish power utility Vattenfall is reported to be reviving plans to auction 8100 MW of lignite-fired plants and associated mines in Germany, but only on condition that bidders buy hydro assets as part of the bundle. Environmental groups have sought to block the sale in order to keep the coal in the ground. French utility EDF is struggling to sell about 1700 MW of coal-fired stations belonging to its Polish subsidiary. (Reuters, Reuters)
First steps for Trans-Kalahari coal railway: Despite the downturn in the seaborne coal trade, Namibia and Botswana have established a joint office to resolve legal and cross-border issues in developing the proposed 1500 kilometre Trans-Kalahari coal railway. In March 2014 the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding supporting the US$15 billion project, which would enable coal from Botswana to be exported via Walvis Bay in Namibia. (The Namibian)

Another cost overrun for US coal-to-gas plant: Duke Energy will be forced to absorb a further US$85 million in cost overruns on its Edwardsport coal-to-gas plant in Indiana. The plant, which was originally estimated to cost US$1.9 billion, ended up costing $3.5 billion. The 618 MW plant – one of the world’s largest coal gasification plants – was commissioned in June 2013 but has run well below expected capacity and had higher than planned operating costs which Duke sought to pass on to consumers. (Journal Gazette)


Energy Revolution 2015, Greenpeace International, Global Wind Energy Council and Solar Power Europe, September 2015.

This latest Energy Revolution outlines a pathway to a 100% renewable energy economy globally with a phase-out of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Gridlocked: A long-term look at SA’s electricity sector, Institute of Security Studies, September 2015.
This report reviews South Africa’s electricity system and argues that in order to integrate a rapid growth in renewables a major upgrade in the transmission system and improved management of it is necessary.

Full Disclosure, Center for Environmental Rights, September 2015.

The Center for Environmental Rights has compiled detailed reviews of the compliance with South African environmental legislation of 20 major companies including Anglo American, Exxaro Resources and Sasol.

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