Glencore’s transition to more coal mines and expansionsPublished by MAC on 2021-05-06
Source: Renew Economy, ABC
Shareholders must think carefully beore rubber stamping coal incrementalism.
The NSW Independent Planning Commission approved Glencore’s application to continue its Mangoola Coal mine near Wybong in the Hunter Valley. The approval will allow Glencore to extract a further 52 million tonnes of thermal coal through to 2030.
The Muswellbrook Shire Council has come out strongly against the proposal to extend Mangoola life saying 'enough is enough'. The extension involves the clearing of 570 hectares of vegetation within the proposed disturbance area, comprising around about 60 per cent woodland and forest species, and the remaining areas are currently derived native grasslands.
Local cattle farmer Keith Googe said he was disappointed by the Commission decision, and is concerned it could change the complexion of the Wybong Valley. "I think that final void is a scar that can never be healed, and the bigger it is, the more significant effect it has to the amenity of the area," he said.
Glencore climate transition plan, known as a ‘Say on Climate’, rubber stamp at least nine new or expanded coal mines in NSW and Queensland.
2011-04-18 The Peoples Champion? Or a Rio Ruse?
MAC Glencore page (393 articles)
Glencore’s transition plan translates into nine new coal mines and expansions
27 April 2021
Later this week, shareholders in Glencore will vote on the company’s climate transition plan, otherwise known as a ‘Say on Climate’.
Glencore joins just a handful of other companies, including oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and Total, in giving its shareholders a vote this year.
In all likelihood, shareholders will vote in favour of Glencore’s climate strategy. It is an awkward situation: the first Say on Climate vote for a globally material emitter will likely rubber stamp plans for at least nine new or expanded coal mines in NSW and Queensland.
Glencore’s coal expansionism
Glencore, the world’s largest coal producer, placated climate-conscious investors in early 2019 by announcing a “cap” on coal production. It committed to limiting coal production to its 2019 production levels of 145 million tonnes per annum.
The cap, however, did not rule out any new or expanded coal mines, as Glencore shuffles production from Colombia and South Africa to Australia.
Yesterday, the NSW Independent Planning Commission approved Glencore’s application to continue its Mangoola Coal mine near Wybong in the Hunter Valley. The approval will allow Glencore to extract a further 52 million tonnes of thermal coal through to 2030.
Notably, the Muswellbrook Shire Council opposed the Mangoola extension, the first time it has opposed a coal mine since 2010, declaring “enough is enough”.
According to the Department of Industry’s list of major projects, Glencore is involved in another eight new or expanded coal mines, in addition to Mangoola, which combined will produce a total of 91 million tonnes of coal per annum at full production. All of these mines will produce mostly thermal coal used in electricity generation.
One of those mines is the enormous Valeria project near Emerald in Queensland, which Glencore acquired from Rio Tinto in 2018.
Valeria is expected to produce 20 million tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal per annum for 35 years.
A start date planned for 2026 would see the mine’s anticipated operational life stretch out until 2061, despite Glencore’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
Glencore’s operational emissions (Scopes 1 and 2) were more than 24 million tonnes CO2e in 2020. If Glencore were listed on the ASX, it would be our third largest emitter, behind AGL Energy and Rio Tinto.
Glencore’s Scope 3 emissions, predominantly from the combustion of the coal it sells, were 271 million tonnes CO2e in 2020, equivalent to half of Australia’s annual emissions.
In late 2020, Glencore updated its climate commitments, announcing an absolute reduction target (including Scopes 1, 2 and 3) of 40% by 2035 (on 2019 levels).
Unlike BHP and Rio Tinto, Glencore has accepted complete responsibility for its Scope 3 emissions.
It is one of the few resources companies to admit that reducing its Scope 3 emissions will be met through the “managed decline” of its coal business, in other words by cutting production.
Glencore has previously criticised its peers for setting “wishy washy” emissions reduction targets for 2050, without a credible plan or interim targets along the way. It’s hard to disagree.
According to the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), 18 ASX-listed companies have committed to net-zero emissions, but 13 of those companies have not laid out a plan to get there.
Glencore has also criticised its competitors for selling or spinning off their coal assets rather than managing their decline. CEO Ivan Glasenberg rightly criticised South32 and others for selling assets to “other players who have no intention of reducing emissions”.
Rio Tinto’s sale of its coal assets in 2018 may have been good for shareholders, but if anything, emissions from its former mines have continued to rise.
Will climate-aware investors endorse coal mine expansion?
The Say on Climate initiative, pioneered by hedge fund investor Chris Hohn, gives shareholders a vote on companies’ climate transition plans, and their performance against those plans.
Glencore’s lack of a short term target (pre-2035) may allow it to actually increase emissions in the critical decade to 2030. While its emissions declined in 2020, that had more to do with the pandemic rather than a deliberate effort to act in the best interests of the planet.
Glencore’s planned coal mine expansions are not insignificant, and cannot be easily explained away. As others have previously noted, many of the largest coal mines in the Hunter Valley are already operating well below capacity and global coal demand is flat.
So why is Glencore persevering with so many new and expanded coal projects? If Glencore is to be taken seriously on climate, these must be abandoned.
What is not mentioned in Glencore’s climate plan is the role of its lobbyists. Glencore has long fanned the flames of the climate wars in Australia and elsewhere.
From 2017 to 2019, Glencore funded Project Caesar—a secretive pro-coal Facebook campaign, administered by Crosby Textor. Glencore remains one of the largest members of some of Australia’s biggest blockers of climate action: the Minerals Council of Australia, the NSW Minerals Council and the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).
Last year, BHP and Origin Energy exited the QRC after it ran an anti-Greens advertising campaign during the Queensland state election. Glencore said nothing.
Just this week, the NSW Minerals Council organised a live broadcast from a coal mine on behalf of Sky News, and its CEO Stephen Galilee penned an opinion piece boasting that “everybody loves coal when the votes depend on it”.
Earlier this month, Glencore hosted the campaign launch for the Nationals candidate for the Upper Hunter by-election at its Ravensworth coal mine.
This week’s vote
Glencore shareholders have the opportunity this week to send a message to outgoing CEO Ivan Glasenberg: if he wants climate action to be his legacy rather than one of denial and delay, he must abandon coal expansionism and rein in the lobbyists.
It is likely that this opportunity will be squandered. Shareholders will almost certainly reward Glencore’s decision to be one of the first companies to provide a Say on Climate vote with endorsement of the company’s plan.
At the very least, this should cause some introspection about climate-aware investors’ voting strategy, or lack thereof.
History will not look back kindly at institutional investors’ endorsement of Glencore’s coal expansionism in 2021.
Shareholders must think carefully about wasting future Say on Climate votes by rubber stamping incrementalism.
Dan Gocher is director of climate and environment at the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR).
IPC approves controversial Mangoola coal mine expansion in Hunter Valley
26 April 2021
A coal mine in the NSW Hunter Valley has been thrown a five-year lifeline, after the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) approved an expansion of the Mangoola mine near Muswellbrook, subject to 179 conditions.
Glencore had sought planning approval to build a new pit to the north of the current site in the Wybong Valley, and mine an additional 52 million tonnes of coal.
The existing Mangoola mine already has approval until November 2029, however Glencore claims coal reserves would be exhausted by 2025, and the establishment of the new pit is necessary to continue operations.
The project "represents a reasonable 'brownfield' extension of the existing Mangoola Coal Mine that would enable the economic and beneficial reuse of existing infrastructure and an orderly and economic use of land," the IPC said in a statement.
"On balance and when weighed against the impacts under the current policy and regulatory framework, the project would generate net positive social and economic benefits for the local area, Hunter region and to NSW."
'A scar that can never be healed'
Local cattle farmer Keith Googe said he was disappointed by the decision, and is concerned it could change the complexion of the Wybong Valley.
"I think that final void is a scar that can never be healed, and the bigger it is, the more significant effect it has to the amenity of the area," he said.
"Mangoola have done a great job with their current mine, [but] a future extension?
"How critical is it and what risks does it pose to our pristine environment we have here now? That's my worry."
The mining union has championed the decision as a win for jobs.
"This news comes as a great relief to the 400 directly employed mine workers at Mangoola mine," said the CFMEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District president Peter Jordan.
By-election candidates react
The decision comes as campaigning in the crucial Upper Hunter by-election enters its third week.
Labor candidate Jeff Drayton said the decision would be a boost for the local workforce.
"It [Mangoola] has the highest proportion of local employees, it's extremely important economically to those areas," he said.
Independent candidate Kirsty O'Connell said the approval strengthened the need to reform the planning system.
"Our planning agencies aren't able to take into account the cumulative impacts that we've experiencing as a community. They're assessing these mines on a case-by-case basis and unfortunately it doesn't position us well for the future," she said.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Sue Gilroy said the IPC were right to categorise the project as a ''brownfields'' extension.
"They're using existing infrastructure and it's close to the existing mine," she said.
'Small contribution' to emissions
In recommending the project for approval, NSW Department of Planning said greenhouse gas emissions from the project would "comprise a very small contribution towards climate change at both the national and global scale".
The expansion will generate $129 million in royalties and provide ongoing employment for 400 people, Glencore said.
"The project has successfully met every step of the NSW environmental assessment requirements.
"We look forward to a timely execution of federal government and Muswellbrook Shire Council approvals," a company spokesperson said.
Muswellbrook Shire Council took the rare step of opposing the proposal during a meeting with the IPC, arguing the proposal lacked key details about ecological impacts and management of the final void, and was not in the public interest.
Benefits of Mangoola mine extension questioned
March 9 2021
COVID might have sent planning hearings online but the divisions in the community between those opposed to and those who support coal mine expansions in the Upper Hunter remain.
Where once the mine's proponents and their supporters would be seated in these hearings in their high-vis clothing today through the technology of a virtual hearing its more to do with actually hearing them speak and seeing their slides than the clothing they wear.
You could say mining companies and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) remain upbeat and optimistic about the future of coal mining in our region despite global headwinds including last year's significant price slump and the continuing rise of renewable energy options that are cheaper than burning coal.
An example of the changes now underway is announcement today by Energy Australia that they are bringing forward the closure date of Victoria's Yallourn coal-fired power station by four years, to 2028, and planning to build the world's biggest battery in the same region.
Closer to home large battery storage facilities are planned for land adjacent to Liddell power station and in the Kurri Economic Zone. As well TransGrid is currently planning to build new transmission lines from the Central West through the Upper Hunter to connect the Orana renewable energy zone to our region and beyond.
Against this backdrop last week the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) held a public hearing into Glencore's proposed 13 months extension for its Mangoola open cut mine near Muswellbrook.
Matthew Sprott, DPIE, Director of Resource Assessments told the IPC, by extending mining to the north of the existing operations Glencore would recover an additional 52 million tonnes of coal through the development of a new satellite pit, which would be operated concurrently with the existing operations over an eight-year period.
"With the absence of this pit, Glencore has identified that the coal reserves in the current mine would expire in about 2025. So by operating the existing Mangoola Mine and the new extended area concurrently, they could see the operation continue through to the end of 2030," he said.
"It would provide 145 construction jobs and would provide continuing employment for the existing 400 staff at the mine, as well as 80 additional operational jobs once the northern extension area is up and running at full capacity.
But he told the IPC the project involves a major shift in mining operations towards the northwest, and this will see a correlating shift in impacts, primarily amenity impacts, towards receivers located towards the northwest of the project.
He added Glencore has sought to manage these impacts through the project design, including using existing terrain which includes a 100 to 150-metre tall ridgeline to the north of the site, which helps to attenuate minimising impacts on receivers beyond that ridge.
The extension also involves the clearing of 570 hectares of vegetation within the proposed disturbance area, comprising around about 60 per cent woodland and forest species, and the remaining areas are currently derived native grasslands. Glencore has proposed a comprehensive biodiversity offset strategy, including a number of landbased offset locations to offset these impacts on the proposal.
According to Mr Sprott the mine's extension would deliver a net economic benefit to NSW of over $400 million and royalties to the state of $130 million.
For those opposed to the extension, including residents of Wybong, the economics of the development don't stack up and the impacts from air and noise pollution, damage to waterways and a larger final void being left once mining finishes is simply not worth giving this project the green light.
Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins was scathing in his presentation describing how the Upper Hunter community has lost all faith in the planning process.
"I am here to ask you (IPC) to stop the destruction imposed by this mine on the Wybong and our Upper Hunter communities," he said.
"In my firsthand experience of observing almost 30 years of mining in this region, this mine has precipitated a unique milestone double; one achieved by no other mine in the Upper Hunter.
"Firstly, an apology from the local mayor in 2012 for previously supporting this mine; and secondly, a forthright objection by the Muswellbrook Council to this specific proposal.
"In his apology, Mr Rush stated that the mine had cost the Wybong community too much. More than half the Wybong Valley's population, more than 400 people have left because property buy-outs. The Mangoola Mine has opened up a new front in the middle of productive agricultural land in an area identified as a critical biodiversity link between the Wollemi National Park and the Great Eastern Ranges. "
Responding to Muswellbrook Council's strong and clear opposition to the extension plans Nick Slater, operations manager,Mangoola Coal expressed his disappointment and surprise at the Council's stated opposition to the project.
"The council has declined or not responded to numerous invitations from Mangoola and our project team over the last two years to discuss our project," he said.
"In 2019, Mangoola's total economic contribution to the Muswellbrook LGA was $335 million."
Despite the hundreds of millions of economic benefits Joscelyn McGarity from Environmental Justice Australia said Doctors for the Environment Australia, which is a not for a profit organisation, made up of doctors and specialists across Australia, using the World Health Organisation figures, calculated that over the last five years pollution from PM10 alone has caused at least 160 more deaths in the Upper Hunter than would otherwise have occurred.
"And I think that that's - this sort of information hasn't been presented in the applicant's social impact assessment nor their air quality impacts assessment either," she said.
"Exposure to particle pollution from coal mining also adds an increased burden on the community in terms of the cost of health care. So in the town of Singleton we're looking at approximately $47 million of an increased burden on the health care system and $18.3 million in Muswellbrook.
Speaking on behalf of Wybong residents, Angela Van Den Heuvel from the Wybong Concerned Landholders Group said the group has been unable to have any material impact on the outcome and now fear that they will only be perceived as whingers as their concerns remain unresolved.
"How do 40 dramatically affected people have any gravitas in the approval process when the NSW seem blinded by the proposed benefit of $129 million and have no desire to engage," she told the IPC.
In reference to the Mangoola 2018 annual review shows the comparison of predicted water usage to actual water usage during 2018. The EIS for the 2014 modification 6 application predicts a high water demand of 889 megalitres.
"Actual water usage in 2018 was recorded as 3142 megalitres. This is an increased water intake of 2253 megalitres, which is 250 per cent above the mine worst case scenario predictions.
"Do we blame the 250 per cent increase in water usage on poor initial modelling and predictions or on a changing climate and longer, deeper dry periods. The impact is real."
Commenting on the final voids. she said is this truly the legacy we want to leave for our children.
The assessment supports a project that disturbs another 600 hectares of land, then proposes to increase the current approved final void from 52 hectares in area to two voids with a total proposed final area of 130 hectares, she said.
"The newly proposed northern void would be 82 hectares and in close proximity to landholders. This is a 250 per cent increase in the area to be left once mining ceases," she said.
"The wellness of a very small group of people may seem so unimportant and even irrelevant to a project with such seemingly huge economic benefit to the region, the government and Mangoola Coal. To us we are not just a small group of people. We are neighbours, friends and family. We categorically ask that you don't support the approval of this project."
The economic case for the Mangoola mine has been heavily overstated by its consultants and the DPIE, said Rod Campbell, Research Director, The Australia Institute.
"Methods relied on have been described in the NSW Land and Environment Court as "inflated", "incorrect" and "plainly wrong," he said.
"DPIE officers have breached their legal responsibilities in presenting analysis to the IPC that they know to be misleading or false. Their claims to be 'just following guidelines' echo the 'banality of evil' defence in Nazi war crimes trials."
Muswellbrook Shire Council opposes the proposal to extend the life the Mangoola open cut mine saying 'enough is enough'
March 3 2021
It has been more than a decade since Muswellbrook Shire Council voiced its opposition to a coal mine project but it has come out strongly against the proposal to extend the life the Mangoola open cut mine saying 'enough is enough'.
The last time the Shire objected to a mine it was the greenfield project known as Bickham Coal located in the Upper Hunter Shire which was eventually refused by the NSW government in 2010.
This time the Council will not support the 13 months extension to an existing operation in its Shire stating Muswellbrook Shire Council opposes the grant of development consent to the Mangoola Coal Continued Operations Project during its February 24, 2021 meeting with the Independent Planning Commission (IPC).
This week the IPC is holding two days of public (virtual) hearings into the proposal by the mine's owner Glencore to extend the life of the mine located 20 kilometres west of Muswellbrook until 2030 to extract a further 52 million tonnes of coal in what is called the Northern Extension.
Approved in 2007 when its was known as the Anvil Hill Coal Project the mine began operations in 2010 and currently employs 400 people.
The company says if the extension is refused the mine would most likely cease production in 2025 although it has approval to operate until 2029.
At such time it would then be rehabilitated. However early closure would result in the potential loss of $408 million of economic benefit to NSW.
Despite the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in its assessment saying the Project is in the public interest, and is approvable, subject to comprehensive conditions, Muswellbrook Council argues otherwise.
Speaking on council's behalf barrister Craig Leggatt SC detailed a litany of serious problems with the mine's impacts on flora and fauna, water contamination, the social and economic future of the Shire, and Glencore's "uncharacteristically poor" provision of information about the project.
He said, "Muswellbrook Shire Council has a history of working collaboratively with coal 40 mines in its local government area, and it's done that to achieve community outcomes that are beneficial to the community; however, the time has been reached, in the opinion of the council, with the Continued Operations Project that enough is enough."
"What I mean by that is council does not want the Continued Operations Project to proceed. Council wants the IPC as the consent authority to refuse to grant consent to the Continued Operations Project."
Mr Leggatt spoke extensively on the work undertaken by Cherie McCullough's including her comments about the final landform, the voids, mine closure planning, unassessed geotechnical contaminants and also impacts on biodiversity, flora and fauna,
He described Dr McCullough as a world expert who had also undertaken work for Glencore.
"In her words Dr McCullough described Glencore's assessment (for the project) as uncharacteristically poor," he said.
"It lacks depth and details and is based on a trust us approach when in fact it needs a detailed assessment."
"Usually Glencore has what I would describe as a proud and enviable reputation for carrying out the required assessments for projects like the Continued Operations Project; however, uncharacteristically for Glencore, that has not yet occurred on the Continued Operations Project.
"Now, Dr McCullough accuses Glencore of providing mere generalities of high level information. Dr McCullough's view is that the generalities are sadly lacking in the necessary and required depth of detailed assessment and depth of considered reasoning."
Of particular concern is the final void according to Mr Leggatt.
Glencore responded to the Council's statements to the IPC saying "We are surprised and disappointed by Muswellbrook Council's last minute decision to oppose the Mangoola Coal Continued Operations project."
"Council has declined numerous invitations from Mangoola and our Project team over the past 2 years to discuss the Project.
"We take the issues raised by Council very seriously and will be providing a detailed response for the IPC, noting that the Council's report does not appear to have taken into account the Project's entire Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or the detailed technical assessments within the EIS.
"Our detailed assessments of potential impacts meet all of the Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements for the Project, and have undergone rigorous appraisal by Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, with input from all the applicable agencies and stakeholders.
"We note Council has only made its Report, dated November 2020, available two days before the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) public hearing on our Project.
"It is not clear at what point the decision was made to oppose the project or whether this was put to a vote of the Council.
"This is particularly concerning given more than 400 employees and 140 suppliers within the Muswellbrook Shire rely on this operation continuing and, In 2019 alone, Mangoola's total economic contribution to the Muswellbrook LGA was $335 million."
During questions to Muswellbrook Council's representatives at the meeting from the IPC review chair, Professor Snow Barlow, asked about job prospects.
Council spokesperson Sharon Pope then responded: as a region we've become quite dependent on the coal mines for providing employment opportunities, and almost to the point that ... other industries have gone into decline.
"So council's concern is that whilst the mine does provide employment, it is actually going to be for a short to medium term and when the mine closes, we will have a community that actually is no longer functioning in a diverse way and people will suffer from the loss of employment, and there needs to be a lot of planning for the transition to other employment opportunities."