Archive | Coal

Australia coal firms dig in for years of mine closures, job cuts – by Rebekah Kebede (Reuters U.K. – May 24, 2013)

PERTH, May 24 (Reuters) – Australian coal miners are steeling themselves for years of production cuts, job reductions and asset sales as swelling shipments from international rivals lower hopes of a recovery in prices for coal.

Prices have slumped around 30 percent since their peak two years ago as coal flooded global markets, especially from the United States where cheap gas has cut domestic demand and led to a nearly 50 percent jump in thermal coal exports last year. Even robust Chinese and Indian demand growth is failing to soak up the plentiful supply.

To boost their thinning margins, miners in Australia such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Glencore Xstrata and Peabody have trimmed output and laid off thousands. Clinging to barely profitable operations, coal producers now face the prospect of further cost-cutting, which they fear could benefit rivals when the market recovers.

“Everyone is waiting to see who blinks first,” said Tom Sartor, an analyst with Morgans Stockbroking in Brisbane. “You don’t want to be the one curtailing production knowing that it’s going to benefit your competitor.” Australia’s coal industry has become a victim of its own success. In its rush to meet growing Chinese demand, producers churned out more and more coal, and miners are now stuck with more than they can sell.

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B.C. mining company justified in bringing in Chinese workers, Federal Court rules – by Tobi Cohen (Vancouver Sun – May 22, 2013)

OTTAWA — The government was justified in issuing a positive labour market opinion that allowed a British Columbia mining company to hire 201 temporary foreign workers from China, the Federal Court ruled Tuesday.

The decision comes after two unions challenged the government and the companies involved, arguing Canadians are available to do the jobs required and that it was not necessary to look outside the country for foreign labour.

The incident touched off a massive debate over Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, with the government promising, and eventually delivering on, a number of changes to protect Canadian jobs.

While the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers ultimately lost their court case, their lawyer, Lorne Waldman, said it’s far from a total defeat.

“I’m disappointed that the courts opted to uphold the decision, but having said that, I think the importance of the case goes far beyond this decision,” he said. “I think this case was an extremely important one and was successful because it ultimately exposed some of major shortcomings in the labour market opinion process and forced the government to make changes.”

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Greenpeace activists board Australian coal ship in reef protest – by Thuy Ong (Reuters U.K. – April 24, 2013)

(Reuters) – Six Greenpeace activists boarded a coal ship bound for South Korea near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Wednesday, protesting against the expansion of the rich Australian coal industry and its impact on the World Heritage site.

Environmentalists say the Great Barrier Reef, a popular tourist site worth about A$6 billion (4 billion pounds) a year to the Australia economy, is threatened by dredging, sedimentation and coal port and shipping development.

UNESCO will decide in June whether the reef should be listed as a World Heritage Site in danger. The ship MV Meister was carrying thermal coal from Abbot Point in northern Queensland state, a port that falls within the Great Barrier Reef heritage area, and was still in Australian waters in the Coral Sea when it was boarded en route to Donghae in South Korea.

“They have established a peaceful occupation of the ship,” said Georgina Woods, a climate campaigner on board Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior.

Activists launched inflatable boats from the Rainbow Warrior and boarded the coal vessel early on Wednesday. A letter was handed to the captain of the ship detailing their reasons for the occupation. Continue Reading →

[Wyoming and Montana] Coal exports in the north-west: Dirty war (The Economist – April 20, 2013)

A rancorous scrap over plans to send American coal to Asia

BELLINGHAM AND SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – MITT ROMNEY’S charge that America had declared “war on coal” may not have won him last year’s presidential election. Yet this once-mighty industry is struggling, squeezed by the plummeting cost of natural gas and a torrent of tough new environmental rules.

Last year 37.4% of American electricity production came from coal, down from 48.5% in 2007. The Energy Information Administration expects a slight rise this year as gas prices begin to creep up. But further restrictions on power-station emissions are expected, and the shale revolution is marching on. If coal has a future, it is surely elsewhere.

For many, that means Asia. Demand for coal imports is growing in post-Fukushima Japan, as it decreases its reliance on nuclear power; in India, where domestic supplies cannot keep up with the growing economy; and, most tantalisingly, in China, which burns almost half the world’s coal, and which became a net importer of the stuff in 2009.

Such facts make mouths water in the Powder River Basin, straddling Wyoming and Montana (see map), where more than 40% of America’s coal is mined. Some already makes its way to Asia, mainly via Canadian ports. But exporters want to build four new terminals on the western shores of the United States—two apiece in Oregon and Washington—to send up to 130m tonnes more a year. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Asia’s coal appetite still defying forecasts for drop – by Clyde Russell (Reuters India – April 23, 2013)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, April 23 (Reuters) – Asia’s coal markets are starting to resemble Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play where the main characters wait in vain for something that doesn’t happen.

In coal’s case, the market is expecting demand, and by extension, prices, to drop amid anticipated slower economic growth in the region and rising electricity generation from alternative sources.

The problem is that so far coal imports by the big three Asian consumers, China, Japan and South Korea, are increasing, defying forecasts for the past several months of an imminent slowdown.

It’s not only that overall coal imports are gaining, it’s also that some suppliers are gaining market share, most oddly Australia, which is one of the highest-cost producers in the region. China’s coal imports jumped 20.2 percent in March from a year earlier to 20.52 million tonnes, and at 63.796 million tonnes are up 27.3 percent in the first quarter from the same period in 2012.

Japan’s imports were 15.821 million tonnes in March, an annual gain of 5.8 percent and the fiscal year that ended in March saw imports total 106.29 million tonnes, a record high and up 4.5 percent on the prior fiscal year. Continue Reading →

Colombian miners hit out at Anglo American – by John Vidal (The Guardian – April 15, 2013)

The joint owners of the Cerrejón opencast mine will be accused at its annual meeting of jeopardising the health of 13,000 people

Communities from Colombia, Mongolia, South Africa and the US will demonstrate in London this week against some of the world’s largest mining companies, which they say are devastating the health of people, widely polluting the environment and forcing communities to move.

Anglo American, joint owners of the giant Cerrejón opencast coal mine in northern Colombia with BHP Billiton and Xstrata, will be accused at its annual meeting on Friday of jeopardising the health of the 13,000 people who live or work close to the operation that provides coal for power stations in Britain and Europe.

“We have had to suffer the impacts of opencast coal mining for over 25 years now. Our communities have been gradually and systematically asphyxiated by the contamination caused by coal mining, our societies [have been] fractured,” said Julio Gomez, president of Fecodemigua, the Federation of Communities Displaced by Mining in La Guajira, in London.

Around 500m of the total estimated 5bn tonnes of coal have been mined from Cerrejón since it opened in 1985, but the largest mine in Latin America plans to increase production by 25% in the next three years. Continue Reading →

Booming coal demand overwhelming green energy efforts: IEA – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – April 18, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — ising demand for coal-fired power in Asia is driving a global boom for the much-maligned fossil fuel, raising concerns about the world’s ability to reduce emissions that cause climate change.

Even as North Americans have begun to reduce their coal consumption, global demand for coal-fired electricity jumped by 45 per cent between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to climb another 17 per cent by 2017, the International Energy Agency said in a report released Wednesday.

Coal producers in the United States and Canada are clearly benefiting from the trend, boosting Asian exports to offset lower domestic sales, with the resulting boom at West Coast export facilities such as Vancouver’s Westshore Terminals.

China alone added 55 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity in 2011 and the country now represents 46 per cent of global coal demand, with significant new capacity planned.

The Paris-based IEA, which advises the developed world on energy policy, warned that the growing use of coal to generate electricity in rapidly growing emerging markets is undermining efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Continue Reading →

Rita MacNeil: Spirited woman touched many with her songs – Richard Ouzounian (Toronto Star – April 18, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Sandra Faire, who produced MacNeil’s TV projects, remembers her as “probably the most sensitive person I have ever met in my entire life.”

The lady with the big heart and the big voice from Big Pond, N.S., will sing her songs no more. Rita MacNeil died Tuesday night following complications from abdominal surgery. She was 68.

She achieved fame in 1987 with her song, “Flying On Your Own,” but she was 43 years old before she finally earned the courage to let her talent fly freely, having spent the previous decades battling with demons of weight, pathological shyness and childhood sexual abuse. Yet she somehow managed to break through to the other side with songs of hope that filled the hearts of millions around the world.

The sweet-spirited woman with a fondness for oversized hats and equally generous emotion achieved an incredible level of popularity during a career that started late but still earned her all the awards available to her: Juno, Gemini, Country Music Association and many more. Continue Reading →

Expansion of mining in Mozambique bringing benefits and concerns – by Keith Campbell ( – April 12, 2013)

Mineral production in Mozambique should generate revenues of nearly 20.8-billion meticais (some $680-million, or R6.24-billion) during this year, a technical team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast.

Mozambique’s income from mineral production last year was nearly 14.3-billion meticais (about $470-million, or R4.3-billion), while, in 2011, it was just under 5.1-billion meticais (some $170-million, or R1.5-billion).

In gross domestic product (GDP) terms, the minerals sector accounted for 1.4% of the country’s GDP in 2011, rising to 3.4% in 2012 and predicted by the IMF to reach 4.3% this year. The ramping up of coal exports this year, the execution of major infrastructure projects and the elimination of transport bottlenecks – particularly an increase in the capacity of the railways linking the inland coal-producing Tete region to the coast – should increase the country’s economic growth rate to 8.4% for this year.

International ratings agency Fitch Ratings has noted Mozambique as one of the primary commodity-producing African countries that has gained in importance in recent years (others being Angola, Uganda and Zambia). The country is one of 20 African States whose sovereign debt is now rated by the inter- national agencies (in 1994, South Africa was the only African country to have its debt rated). Being rated encourages foreign investment. Continue Reading →

Mining firm, unions at odds over admission of documents in foreign workers case – by Dene Moore (Globe and Mail – April 9, 2013)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Legal wrangling bogged down what was to be the first day of a Federal Court judicial review of temporary foreign worker permits issued to a Northern B.C. coal mine.

On Tuesday, lawyers for one of the companies involved in the project, Canadian Dehua International Mines Group, asked the court to disregard some of the affidavits submitted by the unions among the thousands of pages of documents filed in the case.

“These written submissions are full of extraordinarily inflammatory language, accusing HD Mining of being a liar, of misrepresenting, of blowing hot and cold and all sort of other spurious allegations which we would submit are not found in evidence,” said Laura Best, lawyer for Dehua, referring to the second company involved, HD Mining International.

Among the “behemoth” of information filed by the unions in their pursuit of a judicial review, are affidavits based on hearsay and false allegations, Ms. Best said. The unions fired back with written arguments labelling the application by the companies to dismiss the affidavits as an abuse of process. Continue Reading →

No tears for Thatcher in Britain’s coal country – by Eric Reguly (Globe and Mail – April 10, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

ROTHERHAM, ENGLAND — The mood is festive in the County pub in Rotherham, the South Yorkshire town that was once at the heart of the country’s vast steel and coal industries, a place where high unemployment and profound grudges mar the social landscape.

The McEwan’s lager and the John Smith bitter, at £1.70 a pint, are flowing and it is not even noon – the first patrons arrived three hours earlier. Rosy-faced men raise glass after glass in celebration of the death of Margaret Thatcher.

“I went ‘whoopee’ when I heard she died,” says Austin Davies, 64, a former coalface worker who joined the 1984-85 coal workers’ strike that ultimately wrecked his career and broke the country’s union power. “Bury her in a mine shaft.”

His friend, Barry McGowan, 68, who was an ambulance driver during the year-long strike, says the economic legacy of Lady Thatcher – a divisive topic anywhere in the country – still haunts the South Yorkshire towns that lost their mines and foundries. “There is still a lot of bitterness here,” he says. “The scabs – some of us still don’t speak to them after 30 years.”

Rotherman (population about 120,000) is an old steel town that has seen better days. A plethora of chain stores have brought some life back to the centre, but the outskirts are cluttered with the remains of dead steel and clothing plants. Continue Reading →

Margaret Thatcher’s death greeted with little sympathy by Orgreave veterans – by Helen Pidd and David Conn (The Guardian – April 8, 2013)

‘I’m not a hypocrite. I spoke ill of her when she was alive and I’ll speak ill of her now she’s dead’

“I’ll tell you what really annoyed us miners,” said Pete Mansell, sipping a pint of John Smith’s on Monday. “She said we were the enemy within. We weren’t. We were just looking after our lives, our families, our kids and our properties, everything that we ever had. We were fighting for that big style.”

Along with most of the other men drinking in the Black Bull pub in Aughton, Rotherham, the 55-year-old former pit worker had borne witness to the fiercest confrontation in the miners strike at the nearby Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984.

Almost 30 years have gone by since Margaret Thatcher characterised those who took part in the “battle of Orgreave” as thugs. But in a village that one drinker said had been “decimated by Thatcher”, the words still cut deep. It is perhaps no surprise that those gathered in the pub were having what they described as a party after hearing about her death.

“I’m not a hypocrite,” said Mansell, who is from the nearby pit village of Swallownest and worked underground for 22 years. “I spoke ill of her when she was alive and I’ll speak ill of her now she’s dead. She doesn’t mean two iotas to me.” Continue Reading →

Margaret Thatcher and the pit strike in Yorkshire – by Martin Coldrick (BBC News – April 8, 2013)

Yorkshire – In Yorkshire, the mere mention of Baroness Thatcher’s name is often likely to lead quickly to talk of the 1984-5 miners’ strike.

With the news of her death at the age of 87, emotions remain high in Yorkshire’s former pit communities about the miners’ strike and the role of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

At times, that strike – lasting from 5 March 1984 to 3 March 1985 – almost seemed to be a battle of wills between the Barnsley-born leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Arthur Scargill, and the Conservative prime minister.

In 1984, when there were 170 working collieries in Britain, employing more than 190,000 people, Mr Scargill obtained a “hit list” of mines the Thatcher government was planning to close.

The ensuing strike against job losses, for which the NUM controversially never held a national ballot among its members, pitted striking miners against Mrs Thatcher’s government, the police and other miners, and led to divisions in families which remain to this day. Continue Reading →

Despite its many doubters, the coal industry could soon roar back to life – by Bryan Borzykowski (Canadian Business Magazine – April 8,2013)

Following a brutal year.

The darkest day in the coal industry’s recent past arrived on July 9, 2012. About five minutes after the market closed, St. Louis–based Patriot Coal Corp. filed for bankruptcy and destabilized an already troubled sector. The company, one of the largest metallurgical coal producers in the U.S., had nearly as much in debt as it had assets and, thanks to plummeting prices, its balance sheet was simply under too much pressure.

Stock prices across the sector fell quickly. James River Coal Co., which many thought would follow Patriot into bankruptcy, saw its shares drop 44% that week. Some of the more stable businesses, such as Consol Energy and Cloud Peak Energy, fell by 10%.

At the time, no one was sure when or even if coal would recover. But after a lousy year that saw the commodity’s price get slashed nearly in half, many experts believe that the sector has finally hit its nadir. The industry will still be volatile this year, and may see another bankruptcy or two, but stock prices have nowhere to go but up. “You need to get in early,” says Matthew Peterson, a portfolio manager with Newgate Capital Management. Coal stocks move quickly, he says, so if you wait for good news, you’ll have already missed much of the upside.

While coal experiences more ups and downs than other commodities—the weather can have an effect on prices—the black rock has been in use for centuries. Even though it’s considered the dirtiest of fossil fuels and as a result is being burned less in many developed countries, there’s no way that it would suddenly stop being used. Continue Reading →

B.C. mine’s temporary foreign workers case in Federal Court – CBC News (April 9, 2013)

Unions challenge hiring of Chinese workers for B.C. coal mine

The fight by two labour unions against a company that hired more than 200 temporary workers from China for its coal mine in northeastern B.C. heads to Federal Court in Vancouver today.

The judicial review comes as the federal temporary foreign worker program has raised controversy following a CBC report this week that foreign workers were replacing some Royal Bank staff.

HD Mining International says it hired 201 workers from China for its coal mine in Tumbler Ridge because the 300 Canadians who applied for the jobs weren’t qualified. The two labour unions argue that HD Mining hired temporary foreign workers for jobs Canadians could have filled.

HD Mining International is a B.C.-based company. The majority owner is Huiyong Holdings Group, a private company from China, which operates several coal mines in that country. Vancouver-based Canadian Dehua International Mines Group also owns a stake in HD.

Brian Cochrane, of the International Union of Operating Engineers, hopes the case will result in changes to the temporary foreign worker program. Continue Reading →