Miners target funds to spread the message on coal – by Annabel Hepworth (The Australian – March 24, 2014)


MINING giants are targeting Australia’s most influential superannuation funds to convince them that coal is here to stay in a dramatic escalation of a strike against environmentalists campaigning for the divestment of fossil fuel assets.

The Australian can reveal that the Minerals Council of Australia — whose members include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore — has been pitching the case for coal to more than 1000 powerbrokers at big investors.

As well as industry funds including Australian Super and Uni Super, the campaign has targeted investment managers Colonial First State, investment bank Goldman Sachs and the Australian arm of the world’s biggest asset manager BlackRock, as well as ratings agencies.

The move is an escalation of the industry’s plans to take on the fossil fuel divestment campaign, where green groups are pushing investors to dump their holdings in coal companies. The approach is modelled heavily on the South African divestment campaign against apartheid. The Greens have been demanding that the $96.6 billion Future Fund get out of coal.

This week, the director of Oxford University’s Stranded Assets Program, Ben Caldecott, starts a speaking tour in Australia.

Last year, a report by the program into divestment campaigns found the direct effects on equity or debt are likely to be limited — though effects on coal companies would be more substantial — but the main impact would be “triggering a process of stigmatisation” of fossil fuel businesses.

A document commissioned by the Minerals Council to go to investors today, obtained by The Australian, says the “available evidence” presents a different picture to the arguments of pro-divestment proponents.

Pro-divestment advocates argue that Chinese coal demand is waning and there is a switch to renewables because of government policy in the world’s most populous country.

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