August 3, 2023
Issue 476  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The International Energy Agency’s latest update on global coal use highlights how much of the current increased demand for coal is in India and China, more than offsetting declining use elsewhere. In China, the debate drags on about how to reform the regulation of the power sector to undercut increased reliance on coal generation and avoid the construction of new coal plants. A new report highlights the urgency of China curbing the construction of new coal-based iron and steel plants. Recent data indicates a staggering increase in new projects approved in the last few years. Two stories in the last week illustrate the social and health costs attached to the coal and steel industries. A Chinese news outlet revealed how a coal company in Shanxi Province failed to report dozens of accidents, covered up the deaths of 43 miners and required grieving families to sign non-disclosure agreements in return for compensation. In the US, a study revealed the dramatic reduction in hospital admissions for heart conditions after an old coke plant in Pennsylvania closed.

In India, protests against the central government’s plan to auction off the Tara coal block in the Hasdeo Arand forest prompted the Ministry of Coal to drop the area from sale. A long-running legal case against a former MP and five others has resulted in prison sentences stemming from charges over the improper allocation of a coal block in Chhattisgarh.

Bob Burton


How to keep coal unprofitable in China

Additional policies could downgrade coal power from occasionally unprofitable to a financial liability, writes Zhang Shuwei from Draworld Environment Research Center in Beijing in China Dialogue.

How a West Virginia citizen uses his drone to uncover polluters who would rather stay hidden

Junior Walk has been campaigning against coal through direct protest action and, more recently, by flying a drone over coal sites to detect permit breaches, writes Oliver Milman in the Guardian.

From coal to kayaking: West Virginia’s miners turn to tourism to pay the bills

An increasing number of workers in the once profitable mining industry are now employed in tourism in Appalachia, writes Stephen Starr in the Guardian.

Top News

Indian government drops plan to auction Hasdeo Arand forest coal block: The Ministry of Coal has abandoned the proposed auction of the Tara coal block in the Hasdeo Arand forest after strong community objections and opposition from the Chhattisgarh government. Of the seven blocks in Chhattisgarh offered for auction, only the heavily forested 2400-hectare Tara block attracted more than the one bid required to proceed to the next stage of the auction process. The Tara block is estimated to have the potential for six million tonnes a year of thermal coal, but the project developer would have faced the challenge of acquiring 380 hectares of land in the face of opposition from landowners. The Ministry of Coal provided no reasons for the decision, only that it has been withdrawn from “the current auction process”. (Hindustan Times, Ministry of Coal)

Bosnia and Herzegovina coal plant permit suspended pending court decision: Residents and environmental groups have welcomed the decision of the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and Ecology of the Republic of Srpska to suspend the environmental permit for the proposed 700 megawatt (MW) Ugljevik 3 coal plant. The permit has been suspended until the Supreme Court of the Republic of Srpska issues a ruling on the validity of the approval. The Republic of Srpska is one of two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The new plant was first proposed in 2012 but has faced sustained community opposition and legal challenges. NGOs are hopeful that the end of the project is near, with BiH’s recently released draft National Energy and Climate Plan stating there will be no new coal or gas plants. (Balkan Green Energy News) Global Energy Monitor)

Bulgarian court refers pollution case back to lower court: To the dismay of civil society groups, the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court has referred back to a lower court a challenge against the decision by the Bulgarian government to allow the state-owned 1602 MW Maritsa East 2 lignite plant to breach European Union (EU) sulphur dioxide pollution limits. ClientEarth, an environmental law group, noted that while the Supreme Administrative Court critiqued the lower court’s initial decision, it did not order the plant to stop polluting beyond permissible levels. In March, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the Bulgarian government’s 2018 decision to allow the plant to emit almost double the amount of sulphur dioxide allowed by the EU was illegal. The Bulgarian government plans to continue operating coal plants until 2038 and has resisted measures to decarbonise the power sector. (ClientEarth)

Indian civil society groups urge government bank not to back Adani plant: A coalition of more than 100 Indian civil society groups has called on the State Bank of India (SBI) to withdraw from a consortium planning to invest 340 billion rupees (US$4.1 billion) in a proposed 2 million tonnes per annum coal-to-PVC plant in Mundra, Gujarat. An Adani Enterprises subsidiary, Adani Petrochem, was incorporated in 2021 and began planning work on the project, which would import about 3.1 million tonnes of coal annually from Australia, Russia and other suppliers. In the wake of the Hindenburg Research report released in January, Adani announced the project had been suspended. However, SBI has confirmed that it will lead a consortium of public sector banks providing 145 billion rupees (US$1.76 billion) for the project with private banks to fund the balance. The groups argue the project would be polluting and an inappropriate investment. (NewsClick, The Hindu)

Former Indian MP and coal officials sentenced to prison terms: Vijay Darda, a former MP from the Congress party in India’s upper house, his son Devender Darda and JLD Yavatmal Energy director Manoj Kumar Jayaswal have all been sentenced to four years imprisonment over irregularities in the allocation of the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh. The former Secretary of Coal, HC Gupta, and two other senior public servants were sentenced to three years in prison. The six were convicted on charges under the Indian Penal Code on charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating, and breaching the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. A little over a decade ago, civil society groups and public interest lawyers raised concerns over the legality of coal block allocations to private and government-owned businesses. The Supreme Court overturned the allocation of 194 coal blocks between 2004 and 2009. A 2012 Comptroller and Auditor General report identified that granting coal blocks had not been done transparently to ensure the best return to the public. (Economic Times)

Fourteen arrested over protest against Turkish coal mine expansion: Protests against the felling of the Akbelen forest to allow the expansion of a lignite mine have continued over the last week, with 14 people arrested. Residents filed a legal challenge against the 2020 decision by the forestry ministry approving the felling of the forest, but the court has not yet ruled on the case. Media coverage of the protests in Turkey led to a delegation from the main opposition party, CHP, visiting the forest to meet the protesters. YK Energy, a joint affiliate of IC Holding and Limak Holding, wants to expand the mine that supplies the nearby 420 MW Yenikoy Thermal Power Plant. (Euronews, Reuters, ANF News)

Chinese coal company staff arrested over unreported mine deaths: Local authorities have arrested 28 personnel from Jingcheng Mining Company in Shanxi Province for concealing 40 coal mine accidents between 2007 and 2022 that caused the deaths of 43 miners. Investigations also revealed that the company illegally produced 2.6 million tonnes of coal between January and August 2022. The company reportedly forced victims’ family members to accept compensation offers and sign non-disclosure agreements, preventing them from reporting accidents to authorities. Jin Fujun from Jingcheng Mining faces 17 criminal charges, including intentional injury, extortion, and other offences. Sixteen public officials are also under investigation. The investigation of the company followed a June 29 report in China Newsweek on the company. (Global Times)


Canada: Donkin coal mine in Nova Scotia remains closed after another significant roof fall. The Labour Department said that since the mine reopened in 2017, there have been 32 roof falls of rock weighing three tonnes or more.

US: Nevada Energy requests that the regulator approve US$83 million for converting the 567 MW Valmy coal plant to run on gas.

US: NRG will restart the coal-fired Unit 8 at the WA Parish plant in Texas in late August, but JX Nippon has not indicated if it will resume operating the Petra Nova carbon capture and storage plant at the same time.

Companies + Markets

International Energy Agency says India and China are driving coal growth: The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) mid-year Coal Market Update estimates global coal demand in 2022 grew by 3.3 per cent to 8.3 billion tonnes, with significant increases in China and India offsetting declines elsewhere. The IEA estimates that Chinese coal demand grew by 4.6 per cent in 2022 to 4.5 billion tonnes. Increased production in China of lower-quality coal resulted in higher volumes being burnt to meet power generation requirements. The IEA also estimates that Chinese coal consumption for gasification for liquid fuels, plastics, fertilisers and other non-power uses increased by seven per cent. Indian coal demand grew by more than eight per cent to 1155 million tonnes. Indonesian coal use grew by 36 per cent to 201 million tonnes, driven by increased steel sector demand and nickel smelting. In the US, coal demand fell by about seven per cent to 457 million tonnes, while European Union consumption increased by 0.9 per cent to 448 million tonnes. The IEA estimates coal demand in the US and EU fell by 24 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, in the first half of 2023, but this has been offset by demand increases of over five per cent in China and India. (International Energy Agency, Coal Market Update [Pdf])

Bangladesh coal plant shut down for a week due to lack of coal: The 660 MW unit-1 of the 1320 MW Rampal coal plant has shut down for eight days to August 7-8 due to a coal shortage. The managing director of Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited, which operates the plant, said the shutdown was caused by a delay in issuing letters of credit for coal purchases due to a foreign exchange shortage. The plant has shut down six times since it was commissioned in mid-December 2022: five times due to coal shortages and four days in mid-July due to a turbine fault. (Financial Express,

European carbon price climbs as commission outlines cuts to permits: The European Commission announced the EU will reduce the number of carbon dioxide permits added to the market next year to 1.386 billion, a 7.2 per cent cut on the 1.486 billion permits added this year. The gradual reduction in new carbon dioxide permits aims to drive industries to cut emissions in response to increasing costs. Next year, the shipping sector will be required to buy permits for the first time. In April, the European Parliament approved reforms to the carbon market, including phasing out free industrial permits by 2034 and establishing a carbon border adjustment border mechanism to tax imports with high embodied emissions. EU carbon permits are trading at around €90 per tonne (US$60 per tonne), with some analysts suggesting they could increase to over €105 per tonne (US$70 per tonne) in a year. (Reuters)

South African exporters vulnerable to European Union carbon border tax: S&P Global Ratings estimates the European Union’s carbon border adjustment border mechanism could cost South African exporters up to 1.63 trillion rand (US$90.9 billion) over the next 15 years. The carbon border adjustment border mechanism was approved by the European Parliament in May and is scheduled to come into effect in 2026. South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition estimates that 19 per cent of the country’s exports are shipped to Europe with the iron, steel and aluminium sectors, which are heavily reliant on coal-intensive power, particularly vulnerable. The Presidential Climate Commission estimates South Africa’s power sector had greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 of 720g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity compared to the European Union’s 200g of CO2 equivalent per kWh. NGOs argue the impact of the EU tax reinforces the need to decarbonise the power sector. However, elements in the ruling African National Congress want to extend the life of old coal plants. (News24)

Indonesian coal lobby objects to new financial requirements: The Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI), the peak coal industry lobby group, has complained that a new government regulation requiring coal companies to hold at least 30 per cent of their revenue in the Indonesian financial system for at least three months will adversely affect companies cash flow. The regulation, which took effect on August 1, aims to boost Indonesia’s foreign exchange holdings. APBI said the requirement came as prices for Indonesian coal exports declined while fuel costs and inflation increased. Indonesia is on track to produce 695 million tonnes of coal in 2023, with about 500 million tonnes likely to be exported this year. (Jakarta Post, Kompas)

Monsoon rains shut Indian coal producer down for two weeks: Singareni Collieries (SCCL) announced heavy rain and flooding forced it to declare force majeure between July 17 and July 31 at its mines in the southern state of Telangana. India’s coal production is often restricted during the June-September monsoon season. SCCL is a joint venture between the Telangana and Indian governments and operates 18 open-cut and 24 underground mines in Telangana. It typically produces over 5 million tonnes of coal monthly and sold 67 million tonnes in the 2022-23 financial year. Continued flooding could increase pressure on customers to switch to imported coal, though Coal India reported 103 million tonnes of stockpiled coal as of mid-July, up by one-third compared to the same time in 2022. (Argus Media)

Green Steel Transition

Study finds dramatic health improvement after closure of US coke plant: A study by New York University researchers published in Environmental Health Research found a 42 per cent reduction in emergency department visits for cardiovascular diseases immediately after the January 2016 closure of the Shenango Coke Works plant in Pittsburgh. The study found that sulphur dioxide emissions fell by 90 per cent near the plant that processed coal into coke for use in steel plants and by 50 per cent at another air-monitoring station about 10 kilometres away. Arsenic emissions fell by 66 per cent after the closure of the 54-year-old coke works owned by DTE Energy closed. George Thurston, one of the study researchers, said the dramatic reduction in hospital presentations after the closure of the coke plant was similar to what has been observed when people quit smoking. (Environmental Health Research, New York University Grossman School of Medicine)

Report outlines Chinese steel plant boom: A report by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) estimates that the Chinese steel sector’s major expansions in new coal-based capacity continue to be approved even though the industry suffers from significant overcapacity and low profitability. CREA reports 384.3 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of new ironmaking capacity and 425.9 Mtpa of steelmaking capacity were approved between 2017 and mid-2023. CREA estimates that coal-based blast furnaces account for about 99 per cent of the new ironmaking capacity, and basic oxygen furnaces account for 70 per cent of the new steelmaking capacity approved between 2017 and 2023. The report warns that expanding coal-based plants undermines China’s ability to meet its carbon neutrality target by 2060. It also estimates that the early retirement of the new coal-based steel sector capacity approved since 2020 would result in nearly US$100 billion in stranded assets. CREA proposes an absolute cap be imposed under China’s emissions trading system and the inclusion of the steel sector. It also wants the shift to electric arc furnaces and hydrogen-based steelmaking technology to be accelerated and emissions from the iron and steel sector to peak before 2025. (Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air [Pdf])


“Imagined futures in the context of the energy transition: A case study from the Central Highlands Region of Queensland, Australia”, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 103, September 2023.

This paper looks at the social and economic challenges for the metallurgical coal mining town of Blackwater in Queensland and the prospects for a just transition.

“‘Jaw Dropping’: Ex-FBI agent describes Ohio corruption case on House Bill 6”, Columbus Dispatch, July 31, 2023.

This article provides a good overview of the US$61 million Ohio utility corruption scandal. One caveat: while the story notes the aim of House Bill 6 to provide US$1.3 billion in subsidies for two nuclear plants, it fails to mention that part of the bill established subsidies for two coal plants.