August 7, 2014

Are there alternatives to coal as well as dams in Vietnam?

“Like other developing countries, Vietnam’s energy matrix has been powered by hydropower dams and fossil fuels, while other energy options have gone underdeveloped. Like in other countries, the government has taken to saying that if it doesn’t build dams, the only other feasible options are coal and natural gas … In response, Vietnamese civil society is challenging the dominance of both dams and fossil fuels by advocating to the government that there are better energy options available, and they’re doing it with technically-sound arguments,” writes Zachary Hurwitz for International Rivers.

Suggested Tweet: Are there alternatives to #coal and #dams in #Vietnam? Yes writes @ZacharyHurwitz 

Native American energy: From fossil fuels below to renewables above

“Many Native American reservations sit on large quantities of coal. Others are rich with oil deposits … Some have seen those fossil fuels as an economic resource. For example, CJ Stewart, a senator of the Crow Nation, told the Huffington Post that his tribe desperately needs to develop its coal reserves to improve its economic fortunes and lift its people out of poverty … Yet tribes often are left with polluted water, dirty air and health problems, which is why some are turning from fossil fuel development of their lands below toward a clean energy future based on abundant renewables above,” writes Laurie Guevara-Stone in

Suggested Tweet: Native American tribes, #coal and #renewables @LaurieGStone

UK is Europe’s biggest importer of Russian coal

“The UK spends nearly a billion pounds each year importing coal from Russia with the money going to a small clique of Russian firms with ties to the Kremlin … The news comes as UK government data shows energy imports - including coal - have reached a record high. The UK, in fact, imports more Russian coal than any other EU [European Union] country according to EU data,” writes Lawrence Carter and Damian Kahya from Greenpeace’s Energy Desk.

Suggested Tweets: Who buys #coal from Russian oligarchs with close ties to Putin? The UK. See here @EnergyDesk


Tribunal upholds ban on coal mining in Indian state

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has upheld an interim order banning coal mining in the Indian state of Meghalaya. In their judgement, an NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar stated that “It will be travesty of justice if in our country, the largest democracy, economic interests are to take precedence over the fundamental right to life and to live in a healthy environment.” The headman of one village, Pyrman Shylla, welcomed the decision: “We want a river where we can bathe and wash our linen, we want it to be filled with fish so that we may live peacefully," he said. (DNA, Financial Express)

Suggested Tweet:  Win for Indian villagers opposing #coal pollution Tribunal rules for "healthy environment"

top news

Indian Government aims to weaken environment tribunal: The Indian Government is considering weakening the National Green Tribunal, the initial court which hears objections to environmental and forest clearances for major projects. The tribunal has irritated the Ministry of Environment & Forests with some of its decisions, as well as some in the coal industry. Last week it upheld a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya while late last year it rejected a claim by Adani that an appeal against its environmental clearance was too late. (Business Standard, Business Standard)

Beijing to ban coal; more to follow: The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau has announced a ban on the sale and use of coal in its six main districts by 2020. Coal-fired power stations in the districts will be shut. Other provinces surrounding Beijing are expected to follow suit. In a recent report Goldman Sachs estimated that China coal imports will halve over the next four years to be 75 million tonnes by 2018. (Xinhua, Bloomberg)
Fire engulfs UK coal plant: Two 490 megawatt (MW) coal-fired units at SSE’s Ferrybridge C power station were seriously damaged by fire with one expected to be offline until after April 2015 and the other restarted after November. The two units were offline for summer and in the process of being upgraded to comply with the European Union’s Large Combustion Directive. Residents were directed to stay indoors and close windows. (BBC, SSE)

UK Government pledges to shut one ‘old coal’ loophole: In response to a public outcry the UK Government has announced that subsidies for power generators in the ‘capacity market’ would be amended to “clarify without any doubt that only new projects can access the 15-year maximum term.” Greenpeace and the think tank E3G estimated that the original proposal would cost US$8.4 to US$17 billion. However, coal-plants which opt to upgrade will be eligible for three-year agreements which Greenpeace estimates as potentially costing “hundreds of millions” of dollars. (Guardian)

““This proposal would endanger human health and welfare by making electricity – one of life's necessities – scarce and expensive,”

argued Fredrick D. Palmer, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Peabody Energy, at a hearing on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations.


Australia: Peabody Energy cuts output at Burton mine by 1.5 million tonnes a year.

India: Eight companies bid for coal gasification joint ventures with Coal India.

India: Chairman of public-owned bank charged with accepting bribes from ‘Coalgate’ companies.
Mongolia: Aspire announce Noble-funded exploration plan for Nuurstei coal mine.

South Africa: Protest against proposed new power station and Anglo-American mine.

US: Opposition grows to proposed new export terminal in Louisiana.

“Let me mention just one other important aspect—how pervasively energy seems to be mispriced at present, based on our assessment. Take coal, for example. This is about the dirtiest of all fuels, yet almost no country imposes meaningful taxes on its use. Our work suggests that, to reflect the carbon damages alone, a reasonably-scaled charge would amount, on average, to around two-thirds of the current world price of coal. In countries where a lot of people are exposed to air pollution, the coal charge should be even higher—several times higher in some cases,”

said Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director, International Monetary Fund.

companies + markets

Indian private power lobby splits: The Association of Power Producers (APP), a lobby group for private power producers, has split. Companies including Jindal Steel & Power, Sterlite Industries and  Monnet Ispat are forming a new group called the Domestic Coal Based Power Producers Association. The impetus for the new group was reportedly the refusal of the APP to oppose the government’s ban on captive coal power station owners being able to sell their surplus power in the spot market. (Economic Times)

Vale seeks partner for Mozambique railway: Faced with low coal prices and increasing losses Vale is seeking to sell a stake in its Moatize coal mine and the near-completed 912 kilometre railway to the port of Nacala. The railway is proposed to have a capacity of 18 million tonnes a year, three times the capacity of the existing Sena railway. Vale has also signed a three-year agreement with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation aimed at financing coal and other projects. (Ventures Africa, Vale)

Alpha Natural Resources cuts back: Alpha Natural Resources, the second largest coal producer in the US, has announced plans to “idle” eleven mines in mid-October and retrench 1100 employees from its Central Appalachian mines. As a result, thermal coal production would be cut by 2.7 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) and metallurgical coal by 900,000 tonnes.  The company cited “persistent weakness in US and overseas coal demand and depressed price levels” as well as the closure of coal-fired plants in the US. (Bloomberg, Alpha Natural Resources)
Mongolian coal exports slide: Mongolia’s central bank has revealed that the volume of coal exports has fallen by 143 per cent and the value by 17 per cent in the first half of 2014. As a result of slow Chinese demand, Mongolian exports and prices have fallen. With declining returns, Rio Tinto subsidiary Turquoise Hill Resources has sold just under 30 per cent of its 56 per cent stake in its struggling coal producer South Gobi Resources. (Bank of Mongolia, Turquoise Hill Resources)

Indonesian coal producer aims to defer date with debt: Bumi Resources, Indonesia’s largest thermal coal exporter, has announced that it is in negotiations with the holders of US$375 million in bonds to defer the date of maturity from August 5 to at least April 2018. Bumi Resources is also due to pay a US$150 million on a China Development Bank Corporation loan on August 6. Moody’s Investors Service described the company as “the weakest” of Indonesian coal producers and having “inadequate liquidity.” (Reuters, Moody’s Investor Services)

“It is adjoined upon our nation to look at renewables more seriously to see if we can expand more rapidly ... I hope that within the five-year term of this government, we will put India right on top of the world map of renewable energy,”

said Piyush Goyal, the Minister of State for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy in the Indian Government.

resources                      take action

Long Live Sundarban, Youtube, July 2014.

This 48-minute film documents the September 2013 ‘long march’ protesting against the proposed Rampal 1320 MW coal- fired power station near the Sundarban World Heritage Area in Bangladesh.

Speak up to the proposed T4 Coal Terminal

The Coal Terminal Action Group in Newcastle is calling for people from around New South Wales to speak at the Planning Assessment Commission public hearing on the proposed 70 million tonnes-of- coal-a-year T4 terminal. The hearing will be held in Newcastle on August 26 and 27. For further information see here.

Demand justice for communities displaced by Cerrejón Coal

On August 9, 2001 the community of Tabaco was evicted by armed police and security guards to allow for an expansion of the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia. A coalition of groups has launched a letter to the three companies with stakes in the mine – BHP Billiton, Anglo America and Xstrata – seeking justice for those displaced and the other communities affected by the mine. The letter is here.

CoalWire is a weekly bulletin of coal-related news published by CoalSwarm. Please send material which you think should be included or suggestions for features to

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