June 17, 2021
Issue 373  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Ahead of the G7 meeting attention focussed on what the leaders’ summit would deliver on coal power. Would Japan announce a policy shift on domestic coal plants? Would the communique set an agreed end date for coal power? Would an end for international coal finance be agreed? The outcomes of the G7 meeting were mixed: agreement was reached on ending international coal finance in 2021 but Japan didn’t budge and an end date for coal wasn’t set. There were other benefits though. Canada announced a new policy effectively stating new thermal coal mines weren’t in the national interest, posing a major hurdle for the proposed expansion of the Vista mine.

Elsewhere, coal projects continue to struggle. A new analysis of overses coal projects backed by Chinese companies reveals far more have been cancelled or shelved than reached the construction phase. The European Commission is seeking to join a legal action against the continued operation of the Turow mine near the border with the Czech Republic. In New South Wales, a government agency has recommended a new underground mine be rejected, while a Queensland coal industry lobby group has complained about the impact on coal companies of policy shifts by the financial services and insurances industries. In India, a new report documents how Maharashtra state could save billions of dollars by the orderly closure of the most polluting and expensive coal plants and replacing them with renewables projects.

Bob Burton


Uncertain times for critics of Myanmar’s largest coal plant

The Tigyit coal plant, Myanmar’s largest, is run by a joint venture between the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation and a group of Myanmar businessmen affiliated with the generals behind the February 1 coup, writes Robert Bociaga in the South China Morning Post.

Repressive response after global publicity over coal pollution in Russia’s Kuzbass

Public dissent over the pollution from the nine open cut coal mines around the Siberian city of Kiselyovsk attracted global publicity and a repressive response, writes Chris Brown in CBC News.

West Virginia community says coal dust is taking its breath away

Residents of Eunice are moving away from the town due to coal dust pollution from Marfork Coal Company’s Black Eagle underground mine, writes Mike Tony in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Top News

Half of China-backed overseas coal projects shelved: A report by the Beijing-based International Institute of Green Finance estimates many of the coal projects announced as having gained Chinese financial support between mid-2014 and the end of last year have been shelved or cancelled. The group estimates that of the 52 projects, eight have been cancelled and a further 25 shelved. Only one of the projects has been commissioned so far. (Bloomberg, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)

Canada signals thermal coal mines unlikely to be approved: The Canadian Government has signalled it is unlikely new thermal coal mines or the expansion of existing ones will be approved after adopting a policy stating such projects “are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects” and are not compatible with the government’s domestic or international commitments to address climate change. The new policy allows the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to prevent new thermal coal mines or the expansion of existing mines by stating they are not in the public interest under the federal Impact Assessment Act. The policy will affect the proposal by Coalspur Mines to expand its Vista mine in Alberta from six to as much as 15 million tonnes a year. (Reuters, Government of Canada)

Mixed result on coal from G7 leaders summit: The final communique of the G7 countries agreed to “commit now to an end to new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021”. It remains unclear whether Japan will change its policy to reflect this with an official stating only that “something should be announced by the end of the year.” The G7 leaders – from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union – failed to set a 2030 end date for domestic coal power generation with Japan in particular objecting. The compromise text stated the G7 countries committed to “an overwhelmingly decarbonised power system in the 2030s” and to “accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity.” (Politico, G7 Communique [Pdf])

NSW planning agency recommends rejection of Hume mine: The New South Wales Department of Planning has recommended the rejection of Hume Coal’s proposal to mine 50 million tonnes of coal over 19 years on the grounds it would have significant adverse social and environmental impacts. The department emphasized the impact the underground metallurgical coal mine would have on a “very large number of significantly affected groundwater users.” The mine was first proposed in 2015 and, after public hearings, more information was sought from the company. The company’s latest submission has been referred to the Independent Planning Commission for another public hearing and a decision within 12 weeks. (ABC News, Independent Planning Commission)

Japanese clean energy advocate wins Goldman Prize: Kimiko Hirata, the founder of Kiko Network, has been awarded a Goldman Prize for her 20 years of advocacy for clean energy and an end to Japan’s support for coal power at home and abroad. Hirata has been the leading voice in Japan against plans by utilities to build 50 new coal units proposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the last few years 13 coal units with a combined capacity of 7030 megawatts (MW) have been cancelled, largely due to the campaign launched by Kiko Network. (Guardian)

Flawed assessment of pollution from Chinese-backed plant in Bangladesh: A leaked copy of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed 1320 MW Banskhali S. Alam power project in Bangladesh has revealed there was no discussion at all of the health impacts from air pollution from the plant. An assessment of the EIA by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and Bangladesh groups found there was no mention of mercury emissions from the plant. CREA estimates pollution from the plant, which is being built by a subsidiary of PowerChina, would cause an estimated 30,000 premature deaths over its 30-year lifespan. Furthermore, mercury emissions from the plants could lead to potentially dangerous levels of mercury deposition in an area with an estimated 7.4 million inhabitants. (Bloomberg, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)

Hundreds of people forced to move for Lao coal plant expansion: Hundreds of villagers from two villages are resisting pressure to be relocated to make way for the expansion of the 1878 MW Hongsa lignite plant in Laos. An official from the Hongsa consortium, which comprises the Thai company Ratch, Banpu Power and Lao Holding State Enterprise, recently confirmed that 2700 hectares of land were allocated for the expansion of the plant, including one entire village and part of another. The villagers argue the compensation they are being offered is only half the value of their houses and land and fear the resettlement village currently being built is on lower quality land. Thousands of villagers were displaced for the first phase of the plant which was commissioned in 2015. The plant exports the bulk of the electricity to neighbouring countries. (Radio Free Asia, Global Energy Monitor)

Barge stuck off Florida coast and spilling coal ash cargo: An internal email from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has revealed 9300 tons (8737 tonnes) of coal ash has been spilled into the ocean from a barge which has been grounded off on a beach in Florida since March. The barge was carrying 12,000 tons (10,886 tonnes) of coal ash waste from a coal power plant in Puerto Rico to a terminal in Florida from where it was proposed to truck it to a landfill site in Georgia. (News4Jax, News4Jax)

Key US Democratic Senator talks up future of coal power plants: Joe Manchin, a conservative US Senator from West Virginia and the Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has expressed doubts about the Biden Administration’s aim to end coal generation by 2035. “I am concerned the timetable they are setting is a very aggressive timetable,” he told the Edison Electric Institute's annual conference. “You cannot eliminate your way there, (but) you can innovate your way there.” Manchin has long been a promoter of carbon capture and storage to address global heating, a strategy promoted by the coal industry. (Utility Dive)


Australia: Report estimates Queensland Government-owned coal plants will all be losing money by 2023–24.

Poland: Government sued by five residents over climate policy inaction.

South Korea: Data reveals Samsung is providing about US$13.5 billion in insurance coverage for existing and under-construction coal plants.

US: Lignite Energy Council hosts workshop for teachers from North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Iowa.

Vietnam: Coal imports tumbled in May as renewables and hydro generation rose.

Companies + Markets

Indonesian coal exports may fall by 40 million tonnes by 2025: CRU, a major commodities consultancy, estimates Indonesian coal exports could fall by as much as 40 million tonnes by 2025 due to reduced Chinese demand. A CRU consultant, Manjot Singh, estimates Chinese coal imports could decline by 45 per cent by 2025 as a result of the installation of over 100,000 MW of solar and wind capacity in the next five years. (Reuters)

Another insurance company abandons Adani: The Stop Adani movement has revealed Ascot, an insurance company that is part of the Lloyd’s of London market, has ruled out renewing its insurance policy for Adani Mining’s Carmichael coal mine project in Queensland when it expires in September 2021. Ascot is the fifth Lloyd's of London insurer to rule out further insurance coverage for the Carmichael mine and the 38th insurance company to exclude the project. In May BMD, Adani’s largest contractor, revealed that it had been unable to find any insurance company willing to cover its work for Adani. (Insurance Business Australia, Stop Adani)

Report reveals Indian state could make big savings by cutting coal: A report by Climate Risk Horizons, an Indian NGO, estimates Maharashtra could save the state up to 16,000 crore rupees (US$2.2 billion) over five years and up to 75,000 crore rupees (US$10.2 billion) over the next decade from the gradual closure of the most expensive coal plants. Maharashtra has almost 25,000 MW of India’s 229,000 MW of coal plant capacity. The group estimates initial savings would come from the retirement of 4020 MW of old coal power plants before 2022 when they will face the cost of pollution upgrades, and the cancellation of a 660 MW unit under construction at the Bhusawal plant. The report says further savings would be achieved by not renewing power purchase agreements for any coal units that supply power at a cost of over 4 rupees (US 5.5 cents) per kilowatt hour (kWh) and replacing them with new renewables which can supply electricity at 3 rupees (US 4.1 cents) per kWh or less. (Climate Risk Horizons)

Australian lobby group says tighter finance polices having an impact: The Queensland Resources Council (QRC), the peak lobby group for the state’s coal industry, has complained to a national parliamentary inquiry that policy shifts away from coal by insurance and finance services companies are affecting companies in the sector. In its submission, the QRC – which represents companies including BHP, Adani, Peabody, Anglo American and Glencore – complained “the winds of change in financial markets are fast strengthening into a howling cyclone for Queensland’s export industries” and that the “scope, scale and fervour with which these financial changes are being pursued is unprecedented.” (Queensland Resources Council [Pdf])

Major Chinese bank flags plan for slow withdrawal of coal funding: The Chief Economist of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Zhou Yueqiu, has revealed that the bank plans to “establish a road map and timeline for the gradual withdrawal of coal financing.” ICBC, the largest bank in China and one of the world’s largest funders of coal projects, is the first major Chinese bank to flag a withdrawal from coal funding. Kanyi Lui, a Beijing-based partner at the law firm Pinsent Masons who has advised ICBC, said “we could very well be seeing the beginning of the end for the financing of coal power plants by major Chinese lenders on the [Belt and Road Initiative].” UK investment management firm Legal & General Investment Management announced it has dropped its investments in ICBC over its role in accelerating climate change. (South China Morning Post, Insurance Business Australia)

Vale pays US$2.5 billion to clear debt on Mozambique coal project: Global mining company Vale will pay US$2.5 billion on June 22 to the banks that financed the construction of the Nacala Logistics Corridor coal railway. The railway was completed in 2015 to allow Vale to transport coal from its Moatize mine to the port of Moatize. Once the loans on the railway are repaid, Vale can proceed to buy out Mitsui’s stake in the project, consolidate the projects into one company and offer it for sale. Vale decided to sell the Moatize coal mine as part of its plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. (Mining Journal, Vale)


Maharashtra’s Energy Transition: A 75,000 cr. savings opportunity, Climate Risk Horizon’s, May 2021. (Pdf)

This 44-page report outlines how Maharashtra state could substitute new renewables generation for coal capacity and save up to US$10.2 billion over the next decade.

Green steel production: how G7 countries can help change the global landscape, Leadership Group for Industry Transition, June 2021. (Pdf)

This 6-page briefing note provides a brief overview of some of the major initiatives underway to cut the carbon emissions from the steel sector and the role G7 countries can play in this.

4.5 times as much overseas coal capacity linked to China cancelled or shelved than constructed, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, June 2021. (Pdf) (The Chinese version is here.)

This 12-page briefing paper provides a detailed overview of a wave of cancellations has hit China-backed international coal investments.