Australia’s coal industry is losing the public relations battle against environmental activists who are trying to shut down fossil fuels, says BHP Billiton’s coal business president Mike Henry.
Despite plummeting international prices and the rise of renewable energy such as wind and solar, Mr Henry said Australia’s coal industry was not in terminal decline and the outlook for Australia’s thermal and metallurgical coal was strong.
“While the overall share of market share of coal may decline, the outright cost competitiveness of coal, as well as the substantial, existing base of installed infrastructure, means we can expect to see demand support for decades to come,” Mr Henry told an American Chamber of Commerce lunch in Brisbane on Friday.
“I am optimistic that the market will improve in the medium term. But poor returns, and little indication of better times on the immediate horizon, make coal a pretty challenging business at the present time.”
In his first speech since taking over the role, Mr Henry warned the company’s cost-cutting drive was not over and could continue further if the coal price continued to fall.
‘We see more opportunity today than when we did when we embarked on this a few years ago. Lots further to go – but as to the end point we don’t yet know. There is the potential [for the market] to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
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