MAC: Mines and Communities

Australia: International mobilization against Alpha Coal Project

Published by MAC on 2013-10-31
Source: Statement (2013-10-24)

Société Générale: International mobilization against Alpha Coal Project

Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France) Press release

24 October 2013

Paris - Two days after one of the biggest meetings of the coal industry took place in Berlin [1], les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France) and their partners have sent an open letter [2] to Société Générale, calling upon the bank to abandon its plans to finance the huge Alpha Coal mining project in Australia. Located in the southern end of the Galilee Basin - an area as yet untapped by mining - the project would have disastrous impacts on the local environment, the climate and the Great Barrier Reef. The open letter, signed by 57 organizations of 17 countries, calls on Société Générale to immediately and publicly step down from this project, and for a civil society mobilisation to begin against the project during November.

Société Générale is currently conducting the due diligence work for the 11 billion dollars Alpha Coal mining and export project in Queensland. The Project will include development of mines, a railway and port expansion, and will extract 30 million tonnes of coal annually for export to Asian markets including India and China.

The mine, consisting of six separate open-cut pits, would have huge impacts, as explained by Derec Davies, a spokesperson for the Coast and Country Association of Queensland : "The mining lease covers over 60,000 hectares; 47km of waterways would be diverted and the surrounding groundwater would be drastically lowered. The whole local economy, mainly based on farming, as well as the critical habitats of protected species would be severely affected."

The project would also heavily harm the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's richest ecosystems. The United Nations World Heritage Committee has asked that the Australian government "not permit any new port development or associated infrastructure outside of the existing and long-established major port areas within or adjoining the property, and to ensure that development is not permitted if it would impact individually or cumulatively on the Outstanding Universal Value of the [World Heritage] property." Yet under the proposed expansion, the port at Abbot Point would become the biggest coal port in the world.

The greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef comes from climate change. Over its 30-year lifespan, the mining operations and coal burning from Alpha will result in 1.8 billion tonnnes of CO2 emissions [3]. But, as the first of a series of planned projects in the Galilee Basin, it could also play a key role in the opening up of the region, magnifying the carbon impact of the Alpha project many times over. Indeed, these projects would emit almost as much carbon annually as the whole of Germany [4], and their exploitation is consistent with scenarios that would lead to six degrees of global warning above pre-industrial levels [5].

In support of local farmers and the Coast and Country Association of Queensland - which opposes the approval of the Alpha Coal Project - les Amis de la Terre denounce the leading role played by Société Générale. With 57 organizations from 17 countries, the association calls the bank to follow the example of the US bank Citi, which has ceased providing advisory services on this project.

"With this letter, we want to send a strong message to Société Générale but also to other international banks that may be considering support for such projects: the Galilee Basin is a no-go zone! Whatever the nationality of the bank, international civil society will be there to remind them of their commitment in terms of social, environmental and climate responsibility" say Lucie Pinson, private finance campaigner at les Amis de la Terre France.

Delays can be very damaging to such costly projects and can lead to their end. Therefore, les Amis de la Terre call on all of civil society to mobilize from the 12th to the 15th of November. The general public can already put pressure on Société Générale by voting in the Pinocchio Awards, for which the Bank is nominated for its involvement with Alpha Coal.

Notes for editors
[1] World Coal Conference 2013, Coaltrans Berlin, http://www.coaltrans.com/EventDetails/0/5573/33rd-Coaltrans-World-Coal-Conference-Berlin.html
[2] The open letter is available on this page: http://www.amisdelaterre.org/IMG/pdf/letter_to_societe_general_on_alpha_coal.pdf
[3] Estimated maximum CO2 emissions from combustion of the Alpha Coal mine. Cooking the Climate, Wrecking the Reef, Greenpeace, September 2012.
[4] Comparison of annual CO2 emissions from the aggregated Galilee Basin mines to German emissions from fuel combustion in 2009 as estimated by the IEA. id.
[5] ibid.

For more information:
Cooking the Climate, Wrecking the Reef: the global implications of coal exports from Australia's Galilee Basin, Greenpeace, September 2012, http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/climate/resources/reports/Cooking-the-climate-Wrecking-the-reef/

Further information and interviews
Caroline Prak, Les Amis de la Terre France : +33 6 86 41 53 43 / +33 1 48 51 18 96 

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