Coal’s trajectory appears to be zigzagging across the global stage, as the issue of climate change continues to dominate government, corporate and social agenda.
In our coal feature beginning on page 22, Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia IEEFA, reports on the reasons behind 100 globally significant financial institutions divesting from thermal coal, and the future implications of this move for the commodity.
The Australian coal market received a further shake up in late February brought on by the reported ban/ not ban by Chinese authorities on Australian coal imports ahead of strict new regime of quotas.
The purported ban followed a marked slowdown in processing Australian coking coal imports so far this year, and was centred on coking coal used in steel making.
Ahead of the ban, Australian exporters had experienced significant delays in moving coal through the Dalian ports, with the average time to process a load slipping from 25 days to 40 days since the start of 2019.
But, Beijing and the Australian Government eventually denied the reports, claiming that there had simply been delays due to new environmental checks required by Chinese authorities.
And so, the Australian coal industry went into overdrive reporting “robust coal exports” in both Queensland and New South Wales in spite decisions to abandon the commodity from some companies and climate change concerns.
Latest data from Coal Services confirmed that global demand for coal in 2018 increased on the previous year at “near record levels”.
Naturally, the Asian market drove the increase of coal demand, with India and China importing nearly 37 per cent (6.2 million tonnes) and 18.3 per cent (28.9 million tonnes) more coal than last year.
Coal export volumes to Vietnam also more than doubled, increasing to 1.8 million tonnes.
NSW Minerals Council considers the increased demand a reflection of Asia deploying more coal-fired power generation capacity, including new high efficiency low emission (HELE) power plants.
Yet, as the Australian Federal election looms, the current Australian Government is treading the coal line very tentatively.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed a shortlist for the Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program, which is designed to deliver technology-neutral, low-cost electricity generation in Australia.
Of the 12 shortlisted ventures, only one was a coal-based project.
We will watch this space closely to track coal’s progress throughout this year.
In our Waste to Energy feature, we look at alternative approaches to the issue of energy – both in production and storage – like Hydrostor’s emerging storage project using Terramin’s Angas mine site.
We also examine the emerging technologies and methods to aid the sector in dealing with its waste streams, reclaiming and converting them into secondary products.
Our Leading Developments section focuses on the new technological advances within the mining sector – from the management of tailings through to mining on the Moon.
We also look at the issue of improving gender diversity within the extractive industry, from the ground, up to the leadership level.
Our regional focus in this issue of The ASIA Miner is on Indonesia and South East Asia.