No new coal mines

It’s just been announced that Aurizon is not pursuing its application to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build a rail line to the Galilee Basin, essentially because the company hasn’t been able to secure any commitments from putative customers (most obviously Adani and GVK Hancock but also Clive Palmer and others). This is great news. It’s now highly unlikely that coal mining in the Galilee Basin will go ahead any time soon.

Opening the Galilee Basin would have been a huge disaster, so it made attention to focus attention on Adani, as the leading proponent, and secondarily on Aurizon and GVK Hancock. But, with this threat apparently staved off, a more comprehensive policy is needed.

Fortunately, we already have one. The Australia Institute has, for some time, been proposing a moratorium on new coal mines. That allows for a gradual winding down of the industry and gives more protection to existing jobs than there would be if new, competing, mines were allowed to open.

Politically, there’s a precedent, with Labor’s “three mines” policy on uranium. That was a fudge, of course, but it was clearly within the export power of the Commonwealth and it didn’t create any big problems with sovereign risk.

15 thoughts on “No new coal mines

  1. That’s good news. But I am not sure Adani is finished. Last I read was that Canavan was wanting Shorten to visit Townsville, presumably to try and get Labor support for the mine.

  2. What they are doing, with limited success, is applying for extensions to new mines (in the Hunter). Drayton (anglo american) lost their application while Bloomfields won.

    How it all pans out is anybody guess but, for whatever reason, tonnages through Newcastle are down and the trigger point for a new coal loader is becoming elusive.

    Newcastle is over coal, they don’t want it and more importantly they don’t need it – there are other factors that are driving the city growth..

  3. Just as Labour’s policy on Adani used to be to pretend support to make sure its failure was not sheeted home to them, I think Canavan is pretending support but getting its failure sheeted home to Labor. He knows the project is a dog.

    Shorten should run a mile from this and instead be photoed in a hi-viz jacket talking to workers at a Nth Qld solar farm.

  4. rog, Newcastle Council actually says that it is stuck with coal for the foreseeable future by the extremely dodgy privatisation of Port Botany and Wollongong. This included anti-competition provisions that effectively prevent Newcastle’s port being used for anything else. You’re right they don’t like it, but their attitude is actually “lets make the best of a bad situation so lets have more coal”.

  5. @hc
    That forecast is from the IEA. Since they have consistently underestimated the growth in renewables – not marginally but ludicrously out – there isn’t much reason to believe them on coal. China is down. The USA is down. The EU is down in spite of Poland. India is still up, but the coal sector is in financial meltdown and the pipeline of new construction keeps shrinking. Pakistan and Turkey can’t make up for this.

  6. @derrida derider AFAIK the anti competition rules written into the contracts made the individual ports more valuable (for privatisation) but flew in the face of LNP mantra, that free trade is job creating.

  7. rog perhaps it was holy dollar at work again. Privatisation of publicly owned assets was probably lubricated with concessions to policy and public good.
    It has always puzzled me how government could offer publicly owned assets e.g. CBA and Qantas, that citizens already own, back to us for a price. And to sell off public assets at a disadvantage to those citizens does more than fly in the face of mantra.

  8. @Geoff Henderson

    I wonder if any one remembers a wonderful cartoon from the Howard privatization days? I believe it was called “The Fabulous Isle of Telstra” or something like that. I’ve been trying to find it on the Internet but with no luck yet. The import of the cartoon was of John Howard selling the people this fabulous island, which of course they already owned.

    I seem to remember some figures from that era that about $100 billion worth of public assets (properly but still conservatively valued) were sold for about $50 billion. That of course is a $50 billion wealth transfer to the already rich (mostly) who could snap up the under-valued shares. A lot of the shares were snapped up by overseas investors IIRC. CSL (Commonwealth Serum Laboratories turned out to be have been sold for 1/10 th of its market value once the shares more or less stabilized in value.

    Those privatizations were morally criminal acts of theft from the ordinary people.

  9. On topic of mines, we simply need a no new coal mines policy and no a new shafts or lodes policy for existing mines. For brown coal we need an immediate, full shutdown with compensation for workers but no compensation for corporations. Simple.

  10. Rog
    Your list could also include Wilpinjong (Peabody) near Mudgee, Wallarah on the Central Coast and
    Wambo near Jerrys Plains in the Hunter’s list of currently sought mine extensions.
    Also the Port of Newcastle,, while it does have a small container facility, if it goes over a limt of container movements it pays a restrictive penalty to the owners of Port’s Kembla and Botany.

  11. I confused as always whether this includes coking coal. The paper SEEMS to be talking about energy and electricity so I assume it is about just thermal coal, but this is not really clear. What’s going on?

    If we treat thermal and coking coal as the same product in most respects we are kidding ourselves.

  12. Jon Brodie, barring a surprising surge in steel use in India and Africa, the world has passed peak steel. This means gradually reducing demand for coke. As a low cost producer, Australia (or Queensland if Australia no longer exists as this point thanks to the success of Operation Scrape Everything South of the Border Into Bass Strait) may be the last proudcer of coke in the world.

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