May 4, 2023
Issue 464  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

Residents and a coalition of environmental groups are celebrating what is likely to be the end of the 20-year campaign against the Ffos-y-Fran coal mine in Wales. But there might be a sting in the tail with the council told the costs of rehabilitation could be as much as five to eight times more than is held in a special account. The hidden costs of coal are also highlighted by a new study assessing how coal trains passing through Richmond, California, add to fine particle air pollution. Another study found that fears that European coal generation would rebound over winter in response to the energy crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were misplaced. Coal generation fell because of increasing renewables and a slump in demand.

In Canada, an Australian coal company has withdrawn its proposed coal mine from the environmental assessment process. In Australia, the long-running saga over the 2000 megawatt (MW) Liddell coal plant has finally ended with the last unit’s closure. Adani is in the news again, with the United Nations-backed Science Based Targets Initiative removing three Adani companies from involvement in the group. In Europe, the Italian insurance company Generali has stopped providing insurance coverage for coal projects operated by the Czech company EPH which has bought up old coal plants in a handful of countries.

Bob Burton


In a game of musical mines, environmental damage takes a back seat

Blackjewel became the sixth largest US coal company late last decade by acquiring bankrupt mines. When Blackjewel declared bankruptcy in mid-2019, the President and CEO Jeffery Hoops pivoted to other ventures, leaving polluted streams and mud-shrouded roads in his wake, write Ken Ward Jr. from Mountain State Spotlight and Alex Mierjeski from ProPublica.

Mercury’s journey from coal-burning power plants to your plate

Unlike many air pollutants, mercury typically takes a circuitous path through the planet’s atmosphere, waterways, and wildlife before entering our bodies, writes Susan Cosier for the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Welsh community celebrates the end of the UK’s only open-cut coal mine

A coalition of Merthyr Tydfil residents, the Coal Action Network, Friends of the Earth Cymru, the Green Party, Extinction Rebellion and others are celebrating the end of a 20-year campaign against the operation of the Ffos-y-Fran open-cut coal mine in Wales. The planning committee of the Merthyr Tydfil County Bough Council unanimously rejected the Merthyr (South Wales) application to permit mining to operate until March 31, 2024. Since the mine began in 2005, 11 million tonnes of coal have been produced, 400 hectares excavated, and residents have been subjected to noise and dust pollution. Council planning officers advised councillors that while £15 million (US$18.7 million) had been set aside in an escrow account to cover rehabilitation costs, actual costs could be between £75 million (US$93.7 million) and £125 million (US$156 million). The company can file an appeal against the council’s decision. (Wales Online, Wales Online, Coal Action Network)

Top News

Australian coal plant closes: AGL, Australia’s largest coal power generator, has shut down the last units at the 2000 MW Liddell power station in New South Wales. The plant, commissioned in 1971, became a flashpoint in Australia’s debate over decarbonisation policy after the then-conservative federal government reacted with hostility when AGL announced in 2017 that it would retire the power station. The first of the plant’s four 500 MW units was shut down in April 2022, and the last retired on 28 April 2023. AGL has received planning approval for a 500 MW grid-scale battery at the site. AGL initially proposed two gas plants and pumped hydro projects to replace Liddell. Since then, the gas plants have been scrapped, and new investments by the company in batteries and a pumped hydro project have been delayed. The Australian Electricity Market Operator and the NSW government are confident there will be no interruptions to supply. (Guardian, AGL)

Plan to revive Canadian coal mine abandoned: Montem Resources, an Australian mining company, has notified the Alberta Energy Regulator it has abandoned plans to develop the Tent Mountain coal mine and requested the termination of the environmental impact assessment of the project. Montem Resources bought the abandoned mine in 2016. After the United Conservative government scrapped the policy banning open-cut coal projects on the Rockies’ eastern slopes, the company proposed redeveloping the mine to produce 1.1 million tonnes of metallurgical coal annually for 14 years. However, the government’s surprise policy change generated a massive public backlash prompting the government to retreat but leaving approval for four mines, including the Tent Mountain plan, intact. Montem Resources has proposed developing a pumped hydro project utilising the flooded mine pit. (Lethbridge News Now)

Three Adani companies dropped from the UN-backed climate group: The United Nations-backed Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI), which “promotes ambitious climate action” in the corporate sector, has rejected three Adani companies from further involvement. The decision follows a request by Eko and Market Forces to exclude five Adani subsidiaries after the Hindenburg Research report revealed how funds flowed between the entities through intra-company loans and offshore shell companies. SBTI agreed to remove Adani Green Energy, Adani Transmission and Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone but said Ambuja Cement and ACC Limited would be “closely monitored.” The groups said the State Bank of India revealed the three removed companies had used shares as collateral for US$300 million in funding for the Carmichael coal project in Australia. (AdaniToxicBonds)

US study finds coal trains boost air pollution: A study published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health has found that coal trains passing through Richmond, California add more fine particle PM2.5 pollution to urban areas than other freight or passenger trains. The researchers developed a monitoring system to track emissions from loaded and unloaded coal trains and compare PM2.5 emissions with those from passenger and freight trains. The monitoring device can differentiate between coal, freight and passenger trains, day or night, and measure the fine particulate pollution they produce in real-time. The study found that loaded coal trains increase PM2.5 emissions by an average of eight micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) compared to ambient PM2.5 pollution. The study also found that in certain wind conditions, coal trains could increase PM2.5 fine particle emissions by 25 ug/m3. Empty coal wagons could increase emissions by about 2 ug/m3. The authors concluded that coal train traffic “is likely to have adverse effects on health and environmental justice.” (University of California Davis, Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health)

India cancels the ability of legal NGO to receive foreign funds: India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), the group headed by leading environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta. Last week, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a 40-page list of allegations, including that Dutta’s activities affected the “activities of Adani in Australia” and thereby impacted the “economic interests” of India. It also emphasised that Dutta had represented a public interest litigant against the Gujarat government and the Adani Group over a copper refinery plant. Dutta and LIFE have rejected the claims in the CBI document and said they are cooperating with investigators. In September 2022, the Central Board of Direct Taxes raided the offices of Oxfam India, LIFE and other NGOs in New Delhi. (Economic Times, Indian Express)

South African minister denies coal corruption problem: The former CEO of Eskom, Andre de Ruyter, has rejected the claim of the Minister for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, that corruption at the utility is not responsible for persistent load shedding affecting customers and affecting the country’s economy. In evidence to the South African parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts, de Ruyter said that the 38 billion rand contract for boilers at the new Kusile and Medupi coal plants awarded to Hitachi Power Africa and later found to have involved the payment of bribes was a significant factor in current load shedding. “If the boilers had been appropriately designed, then the issue of a higher exhaust gas velocity, which caused the carry-over of ash and gypsum into the duct that eventually collapsed, leading to the outage of three units, would not have taken place,” de Ruyter told the committee. On a recent tour of Eskom power stations Ramokgopa argued the “technical” problems at Kusile “have nothing to do with so-called corruption.” The National Union of Mineworkers, the largest union at Eskom, rejected the minister’s claim. On the day of the committee hearing, the African National Congress (ANC) launched defamation proceedings against de Ruyter. At a May 3 hearing, the ANC will seek a ruling ordering  De Ruyter, now living in Germany, to retract and apologise for his statements that the ANC benefitted from corruption at Eskom. (Mail & Guardian, My Broadband)

“History is coming for the planet-wreckers, the fossil fuel barons and their enablers, profiting from destruction. Together, the rest of us can write a different story,”

said [Tweet] United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


Australia: The Australian Energy Market Operator notes that increased renewables generation pushed the wholesale cost of electricity lower, set a new minimum demand for grid electricity and cut energy sector emissions to a record low.

Australia: A 72-year-old anti-coal activist who shovelled coal from the top of a Hunter Valley coal wagon has been given an 18-month conditional release order after pleading guilty.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Government says the draft national energy and climate plan flags the closure by 2030 of 410 MW of the country’s 2073 MW of coal plants and rules out the construction of any new units.

Canada: The troubled Donkin underground coal mine in Nova Scotia has been closed for detailed inspections after a fire.

Europe: The European Environment Agency estimates 1200 deaths a year of children under 18 from air pollution in Europe, with coal burning a significant factor in central-eastern Europe and Italy.

Kazakhstan: The Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Energy are exploring whether some coal plants can be retired early. Kazakhstan has 21 operating coal plants with a combined capacity of 13,033 MW.

New Zealand: Government announces plan to phase out the 14 remaining coal boilers that supply energy to public hospitals by 2025.

South Africa: Minerals Council SA pitches for Eskom’s coal plants to be privatised or operated under 20-year public-private partnerships.

Japan: Mitsubishi has bought 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide removal credits from direct air carbon capture projects. Mitsubishi has nine coal plants in Japan and Taiwan and is involved in consortiums building two more in each of Indonesia and Vietnam.

UK: Seven Extinction Rebellion protesters have been found guilty of aggravated trespass at the Aberpergwm coal mine in July 2022 and fined.

US: The Bureau of Land Management has called for public comments on the scope of a court-ordered environmental review of federal coal leasing on 570 million acres (230 million hectares) of public lands. Comments are open until June 15.

US: Hoosier Environmental Council has filed an appeal against a permit allowing AES Indiana Eagle Valley Generating Station to discharge coal-ash-tainted water into the White River.

Companies + Markets

Italian insurer abandons Czech-owned utility over coal: The major Italian insurance company Generali has terminated all insurance coverage for the Czech power utility EPH. A spokesperson for the insurance company, Jan Marek, said, “in the last quarter of last year, we gradually stopped insuring the entire coal business of the EPH group by mutual agreement.” Generali says it informed EPH in 2021 of its intention to phase out the utility’s coal coverage. EPH, which Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky owns, is ranked as the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the European Union, with coal and gas plants in the Czech Republic, UK, France, Italy, Ireland and Slovakia. Allianz ceased providing insurance coverage for EPH in December 2020. A spokesperson for EPH declined to comment on who is providing insurance coverage for the company now. (Denik N [Czech])

Canadian mining company abandons coal spinoff plan: Just hours before an April 26 shareholders meeting, Teck Resources abandoned its proposal to spin off its metallurgical coal mines into Elk Valley Resources. The company said that it agreed with the view of some shareholders that the best option is to “pursue a simpler and more direct separation” of the company’s coal projects from its copper and zinc mines. Teck has not revealed the timetable on a revised proposal. Teck’s original plan involved the new coal business paying a royalty to the metals business for several years. Teck Resources recently rejected a $US23 billion takeover proposal from Glencore which included spinning off the combined thermal and metallurgical coal mines into a new company. Analysts think Glencore, which lobbied for shareholders to vote against Teck’s proposal, may submit a revised offer for the company. (Business Insider, Teck Resources)

Report finds Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has US$9 billion invested in coal: A report by ActionAid Denmark reveals that Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global has more than US$9.1 billion invested in 71 companies with coal interests despite publicly stating it has sold off its coal interests. The report found that 46 per cent of the coal-related funds invested are held in 29 companies that plan to expand their coal operations. The report estimates the expansions would produce 127 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. The coal expansion projects span 13 countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Japan. Most coal-related funds are invested in companies headquartered in the US and Japan. The report argues the fund’s coal investments are held because of the use of outdated thresholds first adopted in 2015 and then tightened in 2019. The current thresholds allow investments in companies that earn less than 30 per cent of revenue from thermal coal or produce less than 20 million tonnes of thermal coal a year. The thresholds also allow investments in companies that have up to 10,000 MW of coal capacity. (ActionAid Denmark [Pdf])

Bangladesh coal plants struggle with technical faults, coal supplies: A study by the NGO Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) found that Bangladesh’s fossil fuel power plants operated in 2021-22 at only 38 per cent of capacity. The study found that Bangladesh Power Development Board data indicated that coal plants had mechanical problems 41 per cent of the time. The 1320 MW Rampal plant, which ceased generating on April 23 due to a lack of coal supplies, will likely restart operations on May 3. After lobbying by power producers, the Bangladesh Bank issued letters of credit to allow coal imports after previously restricting imports to limit foreign exchange outflows. (Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune)

China automating coal mines: The Chinese state-owned Shaanxi Coal Group, which produced 233 million tonnes of coal in 2022, has partnered with Huawei Technologies to automate underground coal mining and manage remote-controlled machinery from a control room on the surface. Huawei said the deployment of the technology at the Hongliulin mine underground mine in Shaanxi Province has resulted in an 18 per cent cut in the underground workforce. At Shaanxi Coal’s nearby Xiaobaodang mine, automation has resulted in a reduction in the number of underground staff by 42 per cent. China’s National Energy Administration is promoting the use of “smart mining” to cut costs, improve efficiency and reduce mine accidents. Mining automation has been embraced by major global mining companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto and was initially deployed at the vast open-cut iron ore mines in Western Australia. More recently, the technology has been deployed to large open-cut coal mines and, gradually, underground mines. (Reuters)

Chinese company gets approval for coal to chemicals mine and plant: The China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) has won exploration rights for a new 10 million tonnes a year Nalinhebayan Qaidam coal mine in Inner Mongolia. Sinopec, which paid 30.15 billion yuan (US$4.36 billion) for the exploration rights, aims to use coal from the mine in its US$3.4 billion coal-to-olefins chemical complex currently under construction. Sinopec plans to produce 800,000 tonnes of olefins at the plant. Olefins are used to make plastics, detergents, and adhesives. Sinopec owns five coal-to-chemical operations. Coal-to-chemical plants are notoriously water-intensive and can be highly polluting. (Upstream, Reuters)

European coal generation declined over winter: Data reveals that concern that coal generation in the European Union (EU) would surge over winter was misplaced despite the dramatic switch away from Russian gas and coal after the invasion of Ukraine. Climate think tank Ember said data revealed that between October 2022 and March 2023, coal generation fell by almost 11 per cent year or 27 terawatt hours, compared to the same period the year before. Russian cuts to gas exports drove a surge in EU electricity prices as utilities scrambled for alternative supplies. Ember says data shows that electricity demand across the 27 EU countries fell by six per cent compared to the previous five-year period, with renewables accounting for 40 per cent of generation. Coal units returned to service to help cope with the crisis ran at only 27 per cent of capacity. Of the 18 EU countries with coal plants, 15 reduced generation, with only Italy, Finland and Hungary increasing reliance on coal. (Financial Times, Ember)