November 30, 2017
Issue 210  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

This week South 32 announced it will offload its South African thermal coal mines. Investors, the company’s CEO stated, don’t like thermal coal’s prospects. In Indonesia, the government has cancelled the mining licence of the country’s only operating metallurgical coal mine. In Germany, a wind power auction hit a record low price. In India, the government has unveiled an ambitious schedule of reverse power auctions to achieve its 100,000 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity by 2022. In Canada, an analysis of the much-touted Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project reveals it is performing poorly. In Australia, the outcome of the Queensland election will ensure there is no taxpayer loan for Adani’s Carmichael mine, though the project is still not dead. In Spain, the European Commission has launched an investigation into subsides provided to prop up coal plants.

However, it’s not all good news. In Thailand, the military regime has arrested 16 people on a protest march against a proposed coal plant. In countries such as Colombia, Russia and Pakistan, local communities are struggling to voice their concerns about the social and environmental damage wrought by coal mines and pollution.

Bob Burton


Colombian villagers push back against coal expansion plans

Colombian villagers — who have faced the loss of land, water and been on the receiving end of pollution from coal mines, ports and railways — are pushing back against moves by state and national governments to allocate even more land to mining projects, writes Marina Kelava in The Ecologist.

Coal pollution spurs grassroots resistance in Russia’s Kuzbass coal region

The push to expand coal production and exports from the Kuzbass region in Russia has sparked grassroots resistance to the high environmental and social costs from current projects, writes Elizaveta Pestova in ODR.

Pakistan’s Thar coal boom

The coal mining and power boom proposed for the Tharparkar District in Pakistan will end up causing devastating environmental and social impacts without better planning, writes Arif Hasan in Dawn.

Top News

Rebuff for Adani in Queensland election: In the wake of the likely re-election of the Queensland Labor Government, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has vowed to cancel State Government support of a taxpayer-funded loan for Adani’s Carmichael coal project. Adani’s coal project emerged as a major issue in the campaign; the Liberal National Party’s support for the project damaged their appeal and Palaszczuk was forced to rule out the loan. The Greens, which oppose the Adani project outright, may narrowly win their first ever seat in the State Parliament. Without the loan, Adani will be reliant on international funding, with Chinese banks tipped as a contender. (Guardian, ABC News)

Indonesia revokes metallurgical coal licence: Indonesia's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has revoked the mining license of Asmin Koalindo Tuhup, a company that operates the country’s only metallurgical coal mine. The licence was reportedly revoked on the grounds that the company had not obtained necessary government approvals for the Central Kalimantan mine. The company is appealing against the decision in the Jakarta State Administrative Court and is seeking a stay on the licence cancellation until proceedings are completed. (Platts)

Bribe offered at Eskom’s request, assistant to Eskom inquiry alleges: In a statutory declaration, Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, who is assisting the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom and other government-owned companies, alleges that State Security Minister Bongani Bongo said – while offering him a blank cheque – that he was acting at the request of acting Chairman of Eskom, Zethembe Khoza. Vanara alleges Bongo urged him to resign or fake an illness in order to undermine the inquiry. Khoza has denied the allegations, which are now being investigated by the parliament. (Business Day, Fin 24, Eskom)

Thai military regime arrests anti-coal marchers: The Thai military regime has arrested 16 people who were on a 75-kilometre-long protest march against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s proposed 2000 MW Thepa plant. The marchers were heading to Kanchanaburi, the provincial capital, to present a petition opposing the plant to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha who was attending a Cabinet meeting. Six other marchers were injured by police. (Bangkok Post, The Nation)

Call for research into coal’s toxic nano-scale fellow travellers: Academics have called for research into the potential health effects of titanium suboxide nanoparticles, which are produced as a by-product of coal combustion. While modern pollution control equipment can capture “most” of the particles from flue gases, they can still affect public health if the fly ash caught by pollution control equipment is not properly contained. Particles from plants without strict air pollution control standards have the potential to travel across the world. (Sydney Morning Herald, Science Daily)

Spain drafts rule to block coal plant closures: The Spanish Ministry of Energy has proposed a Royal Decree to block the closure of coal plants, including provisions to retrospectively block Iberdrola’s proposed closure of its two plants with a combined capacity of 874 MW. The proposed Royal Decree also proposed designating the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines — not the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and the Environment — as the agency responsible for assessing the compatibility of proposed coal plant closures with Spain’s environmental and climate objectives. (IISD, Euractiv)

German court temporarily suspends forest clearing for mine: A Cologne Administrative Court judge has ruled that RWE’s plan to clear the remainder of Hambach forest for the expansion of its lignite mine does not breach environmental legislation and can proceed. Earlier, RWE had rejected a compromise plan suggested by the judge, which was supported by the environmental group BUND, that the mine plan be modified to avoid clearing the forest. An appeal by BUND has temporarily blocked RWE crews clearing the forest until the full case is heard. (Deutsche Welle, Deutsche Welle)

“Thermal coal becomes more of a focus [for investors] when you think about climate change … We’re making a strategic call on energy coal — it’s hard to price in the medium to long term,”

said Graham Kerr, the chief executive of South 32 announcing the company’s retreat from thermal coal.


India: Goa State Pollution Control Board initiates 18-month study of air pollution after controversy over coal port pollution.

Japan: Coal ship rams breakwater at Taketoyo Port, damaging ship and port facilities.

Mozambique: Vale and Mitsui land US$2.7 billion in loans — with US$1.03 billion from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation — for Moatize to Nacala coal railway.

Myanmar: Kayin state government officials promote Toyo-Thai 1280 MW coal plant.

Philippines: Residents establish protest camp over plans to re-open shuttered mine on Manicani Island.

US: Activists call for boycott of events at coal port developer’s Rotunda Building in San Francisco.

“We expect India’s thermal coal imports to continue to fall as the government maintains its push for self-sufficiency and as renewable energy output increases,”

states Fitch Ratings in a new report on India’s power sector.

Companies + Markets

South 32 heads for thermal coal exit: South 32 will shift its South African thermal coal operations into a standalone company by early next year as a prelude to selling the company off via a sharemarket float. The company also announced that ahead of the sale it will invest US$301 million to expand the Klipspruit mine to extend its life by 20 years. The company’s two thermal coal mines, which supply Eskom plants, have been valued at just US$59 million. South 32 was created in 2015 when BHP spun off its South African coal and other mining assets. (The Telegraph)

German wind auction prices slide further: A reverse auction of 1000 MW of wind capacity has been won by a consortium bidding €45 per megawatt hour (MWh) which, after allowing for distribution and transmission costs, is likely to be €47/MWh. This represents a price one-third lower than achieved at an auction six months ago and 10 per cent lower than an auction in August. In 2016 the European Commission estimated onshore wind power would cost €80/MWh (US$95) in 2030, including distribution and transmission. (Clean Technica, Unearthed)

SaskPower’s CCS plant falters: SaskPower’s Boundary Dam CCS plant has captured an average of just 46 per cent of the plant’s emissions since January 2015, according to Brett Dolter, an economist at the University of Regina. The plant, which has been widely touted by the coal industry as a success story, emits more carbon dioxide than a gas plant and runs at twice the cost. SaskPower is due to decide by early 2018 on whether to upgrade two other units at the Boundary Dam plant with CCS. (CBC)

EU investigates Spain’s coal subsidies: The European Commission (EC) has launched an investigation into the Spanish Government’s payment of €440 million (US$525 million) since 2007 to 14 coal plants to subsidise the cost of mandatory sulphur dioxide pollution control standards. The Spanish Government did not notify the EC of the subsidy, which is considered likely to be in breach of restrictions on state aid and confer an “unfair competitive advantage” on coal plants against other sources of power in other EU countries. (European Commission)

India’s coal demand to fall as solar booms: India’s Minister for Power and New & Renewable energy, R K Singh, has announced the government will launch reverse auctions for 17,000 MW of solar capacity by March 2018 with a further 30,000 MW in each of the two following years. The auctions are aimed at achieving India’s target of 100,000 MW of new solar capacity by 2022, with plans for a further 60,000 MW in wind capacity. Fitch Ratings estimates that India’s thermal coal imports will continue falling as renewable generation grows, demand growth remains low and utilisation rates continue at less than 60 per cent of capacity. (New Indian Express, Economic Times)

South Africa’s nuclear push would require cap on renewables: Modelling by Eskom for the 2017 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity has revealed the cost of grid integration of new generation is low, including for renewables, but nuclear power is the most expensive. However, several of the scenarios modelled include the assumption of new nuclear and coal plants — which are strongly backed by the government — being “forced” into the grid by 2050 by capping the amount of new renewables capacity. The Minister for Energy, David Mahlobo, has now taken over carriage of the finalisation of the IRP. (Daily Maverick)

Amnesty challenges Coal India’s human rights claim: Amnesty International India has rejected Coal India’s claim in its annual sustainability report that it has no reported human rights violations. In 2016–17 Coal India acquired 21,000 hectares of land under a legislative loophole which exempts the publicly owned company from consulting affected communities, seeking the consent of indigenous Adivasi communities or paying compensation. (Amnesty International India)