August 6, 2015
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The Souring of Vietnam’s Coal Dream

“A tidal wave of toxic coal waste slurry has flooded shin-deep through houses in Cam Pha City in northern Vietnam following the collapse of an coal mine tailings dam after torrential monsoonal rain. The widespread flooding of coal mines in Quang Ninh province along with part of the coal stored at the Quang Ninh Thermal Power Plant being washed into a river are likely to result in the pollution of the Ha Long World Heritage site. The flooding of major coal mines has many of the country’s coal-power stations facing the prospect of running out of fuel within two weeks,” writes Bob Burton in RenewEconomy.

Suggested Tweet: #Vietnam’s floods send avalanche of #coal waste into iconic Ha Long Bay #worldheritage @bobburtonoz @renew_economy

Obama Didn't Kill Coal, the Market Did

“Critics of the [US] Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan are describing it in apocalyptic terms … The overblown political rhetoric about the plan tends to obscure the market reality that the coal industry has been in steady decline for a decade, partly as a result of the natural gas boom, but mostly because consumers are demanding cleaner air and action on climate change. Communities across the US have led the way in persuading utilities to close dirty old coal plants and transition to cleaner forms of energy,” writes Michael Bloomberg in Bloomberg.

Suggested Tweet: Obama didn't kill #coal, the market did @MikeBloomberg

Investors have lost their shirts on Peabody; now taxpayers are in the line of fire

“Peabody continues to tank for the main reasons many other major coal producers continue to tank: it made too many top-of-the-cycle, multibillion-dollar debt-funded acquisitions and its executives have continued to pretend that they can’t see the oversupply in a seaborne coal market that is in structural decline … The reality … is that if Peabody is unable to cover the cost of its mine rehabilitation, that burden will be shifted to taxpayers,” writes Tim Buckley in RenewEconomy.

Suggested Tweet: Investors have lost their shirts on @peabodyenergy; now taxpayers are in the line of fire @ieefa_institute #coal


Provincial Pakistani gov't drops coal plan at court hearing

Legal action by residents and the Lahore Press Club has forced the Punjab government to drop a plan for a small coal-fired power station in Lahore, the provincial capital. In mid-July lawyers for the residents and the press club – which runs the Lahore Press Club Housing Society – argued the land acquisition for the project was unconstitutional and would pollute an area which had recently been designated as a residential area. The case was referred to a full bench hearing at which the lawyer acting for the provincial government said the project had been scrapped. (Daily Times, Express Tribune)

Suggested Tweet: Legal challenge forces provincial government in #Pakistan to drop plan for #coal plant in Lahore residential area

Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine Looking Increasingly Unviable

On 5th August Adani’s embattled Carmichael mega-coal mine in the Galilee Basin suffered two further setbacks when the Federal Court of Australia overturned the Federal government’s environmental approval of the mine and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced it was terminating its role as financial advisor to the project. The Court overturned the approval on the basis that the Minister for the Environment failed to consider the impacts of the mine on two nationally-threatened species – the Yakka Skink and the Ornamental Snake. The Minister now has to reconsider Adani’s application. The involvement of the Commonwealth Bank – Australia’s largest bank – was considered crucial to Adani’s ability to raise sufficient funds for the $16 billion coal, railway and port project. The Commonwealth Bank’s withdrawal leaves the three remaining major Australian banks – NAB, Westpac and ANZ – increasingly isolated. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Suggested Tweet: @commbank parts ways with #Adani over #Carmichael #coal project

top news

Welsh council rejects company’s high-pressure lobbying: After public opposition to an application by Miller Argent to mine 6 million tonnes of coal from an open-pit mine in Wales, Caerphilly County Borough Council has rejected the project. In a last-ditch lobbying bid the company had threatened to sue the council for all its costs in preparing its application if it rejected planning permission for the mine. In mid-June the council’s planning committee unanimously voted to reject the application. (Guardian, BBC)

NSW Government ponders legal change to dilute pro-mine bias: The New South Wales Government is considering dumping legislative provisions which makes the economic value of a mine the “principal consideration” when major mine projects are being reviewed. The proposal to delete the provision – which was introduced in 2013 after a Rio Tinto mine proposal was rejected – has been overwhelmingly supported by public submissions. Rio Tinto opposes the proposed change while the NSW Minerals Council – the peak industry lobby group – wants current applications excluded. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Obama unveils Clean Power Plan: In an analysis of the impact of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that total US coal production could fall from 907 million tonnes in 2014 to 616 million tonnes in 2030. With domestic power generation consumption likely to be 667 million tonnes in 2015, the EPA estimates it could fall to 550 million tonnes by 2025. (SNL, The Tree)

Polish politics moves to pro-coal right: The August 6 swearing in of the new Polish president Andrzej Duda from the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) is likely to see Poland seek to exempt its coal industry from the European Union’s energy and climate policies. PiS is tipped to poll well in the October general election at the expense of the incumbent Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s Civic Platform party. Kopacz is seeking to organise a US$440 million direct investment by the Polish Government and publicly-owned energy utilities to bailout the government-owned coal company Kompania Weglowa. (Energy Transition, Reuters)

“The news out of the US [the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan] will toughen the rhetoric against global coal use … For coal as an industry, it’s definitely bad news,”

said Helen Lau, an analyst with Argonaut Securities.


Australia: Vale and Sumitomo sell US$631 million metallurgical coal mine for just US$1.

New Zealand: Genesis Energy announces NZ’s last two coal power plants will close by end of 2018.

New Zealand: Government-owned Solid Energy staggers towards restructure or liquidation.
US: Utility pays US$4.3 million to settle Nevada tribe’s lawsuit over power plant pollution.

Venezuala: Protest against decision to grant 24,000 hectare coal concession in Zulia state to Sinohydro.

“If they [the world’s 1 billion energy poor] all had access to coal-fired power tomorrow their respiratory illness rates would go up, … We need to extend access to energy to the poor and we need to do it the cleanest way possible because the social costs of coal are uncounted and damaging, just as the global emissions count is damaging as well,”

said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank climate change envoy.

companies + markets

India’s coal imports fall for first time in a year: In July India’s coal imports dropped by 11 per cent on the previous year. While one month’s data does not necessarily indicate a trend, domestic Indian coal production has been increasing while financially-stressed distribution companies have reduced fuel purchases and generation. The latest South African data indicates a fall since May in coal destined for India, which accounts for half the country’s exports. (NDTV, Platts)

New German coal plant near worthless: RWE has offered 23 German municipalities a total of just US$25 for their US$2.7 billion stake in the new 1600 megawatt (MW) coal plant in Hamm. The municipalities invested in generating units D and E at the plant – one of which was commissioned in 2014 and the other of which is under construction – and agreed to a 20-year power offtake agreement. When the market for thermal generation soured the municipalities sought to sell their stakes but, if they accept RWE’s offer, will still be bound to buy the power which is now more expensive than market rates. (Renewables International)
Mozambique coal boom turns to bust: At the height of the global coal boom the Mozambique Government hyped its coal export potential but many projects have stalled or have lost money. “At this stage Mozambique is not a coal story any more. It's very expensive, very uncompetitive and they need a lot of added [infrastructure] capacity,” said Thea Fourie, an economist at the financial consultancy His. (Reuters)

Alpha Natural Resources files for bankruptcy: The fourth largest US coal company, Alpha Natural Resources (ANR), has sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while restructuring the company. ANR is likely to close some of the 50 mines it operates in the US and try to sell others. The company has blamed an “unprecedented period of distress” in the coal industry on its need to restructure. The company is US$3 billion in debt and is facing falling demand and prices. (New York Times, Alpha Natural Resources)


Extreme weather highlights coal’s toxic legacy, The Tree, August 3, 2015.

This provides a useful backgrounder on the recent floods in Vietnam and the collapse of coal tailings dams which threatens to pollute the Ha Long Bay World Heritage site.

take action

Time for Australian banks to drop Adani

The Commonwealth Bank has severed ties with Adani's proposed Carmichael mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin. Market Forces has launched an online action to the three remaining major Australian banks – ANZ, NAB and Westpac – asking them to publicly rule out their funding Adani or other Galilee Basin coal export projects. You can take action here.

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