Skip navigation

#RiskyBusiness Coal Finance Campaign

In 2023, our movement successfully stopped a $1bn loan from a huge syndicate of banks, including NAB and Westpac, from going to Whitehaven Coal to support their thermal coal expansion plans. Whitehaven are forced to funds from different, more expensive sources of finance- international banks, private financiers, bonds and joint venture partners.

We know from experience on the Stop Adani and Australian banks campaigns that a small group of people consistently taking public, digital, and sometimes in-person actions can shift big, wealthy and even already committed targets.

Our plan is to increase the financial burden for Whitehaven Coal by forcing them to take on more expensive debt and removing potential investors and partners. By increasing their costs, Whitehaven Coal are less likely to have the cash they need to begin greenfield projects like Winchester South, Vickery or continue their Maules Creek expansion.

It's time to tell potential business partners that Whitehaven Coal is #RiskyBusiness. 

It's time to Move Beyond Coal.

DIGITAL GUIDE

JOIN OUR #RISKYBUSINESS SQUAD

GET UPDATES AND SUPPORT : FORTNIGHTLY HOUR OF POWER

ITOCHU ACTION IN SYDNEY 3RD MAY

JFE ACTION IN BRISBANE 7TH MAY

Whitehaven Coal is Australia’s largest pure play coal company. They are a climate laggard, an environmental vandal and the proponent of six new or expanded coal projects - Vickery (NSW), Narrabri Stage 3 (NSW), Winchester South (QLD), Blackwater South (QLD), the Maules Creek expansion (NSW) and Blackwater North (QLD). 

Together, these projects could unleash more than 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions: more than seven times Australia’s total annual domestic emissions from all sources. Their expansion plans and greenfield development plans span decades into the future-including a proposal to operate until 2120- and they are a big obstacle in the effort to move Australia beyond coal. 

Whitehaven Coal have refused to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 and play a toxic role in Australian politics. Paul Flynn, Whitehaven’s CEO is also the managing director and CEO if the NSW Minerals Council and they consistently lobby politicians and weigh in against climate reform proposals.

By investing in further coal expansion, Whitehaven Coal is also betting against Australia and its customer countries taking meaningful action to address climate change.

Whitehaven Coal has just blown $6.5 billion dollars buying two massive BHP coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin - the Blackwater and Daunia mines. This has left Whitehaven Coal in a lot of debt and no spare cash to pursue their six proposed new coal projects. 

Whitehaven Coal are currently seeking joint venture partners (JVPs) for the Blackwater coal mine. A JVP is a company that buys a minority stake in a particular project. JVPs are useful to Whitehaven because they provide either or both a cash injection for the company and sometimes a guaranteed seller for the coal. They're reaching out to a range of steel producing companies that might see benefit in guaranteeing their supply of metallurgical coal in Australia by taking on a 20% stake in the mines. This would lessen the financial burden of the debt Whitehaven have taken on to acquire this mine and guarantee a market for their coal. 

If we can stop Whitehaven Coal securing joint venture partners for the Blackwater and Daunia mines, we can increase the cost of business for Whitehaven Coal, and ensure they are less likely to have the cash they need to dig new climate-wrecking coal projects. WHC is currently seeking bidders for a stake in their Blackwater metallurgical coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin but we also suspect that given their debt, they will be seeking JVPs for other mines including their other new mine Duania, their new greenfield mine Winchester South and eventually their already commenced Vickery mine.

From financial reporting, we have gathered that there are likely 6 main suspects.

From Japan: Itochu (a commodities trading company), JFE Steel or Nippon Steel (both steel companies!)

From India: JSW Steel (an Indian Steel and Cement company)

From Indonesia: likely Adaro Energy or Buma (both coal companies)

Of these 6, there are 4 with presences in Australia, including offices and/or social media and staff. This means, we will focus our energy on these companies:

  • Itochu
  • Nippon
  • JFE
  • Buma

Coal can broadly be divided into two categories - thermal coal, which is used to generate electricity, and metallurgical coal (also referred to as coking coal), used in steel production. 

The iron and steel industry produces more carbon pollution than any other heavy industry -  it’s responsible for up to 11% of all global carbon dioxide emissions. [1] The main reason conventional steelmaking is so polluting is that it requires a lot of coal. 

Coal plays a couple of roles in conventional steel making - thermal coal provides heat for the furnaces, and metallurgical/coking coal provides an essential ingredient for the chemical reaction that produces steel. Without getting too technical, metallurgical coal is reduced to a carbon-dense substance called coke. When that coke is put in a blast furnace with iron ore, it acts as a ‘reducing agent’ that removes oxygen from iron ore to leave pure iron, the main ingredient in steel.

The good news? It is now possible to create low-emissions ‘green steel’ using processes that don't require any metallurgical coal. Heating can now be provided by renewable energy like solar and wind instead of coal. And new steelmaking processes such as Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) allow hydrogen made with renewable energy to act as a reducing agent, instead of coal. [2] 

These low-emissions steelmaking technologies are proven and being used today. Many major steel companies are already seeking to reduce their use of coal or completely replace it with renewable energy [3]. As these 'green steel' technologies develop and get cheaper, they will have a significant impact on demand for metallurgical coal. [4]

The transition to green steel will take time. It will require support from both government and the private sector to accelerate the production of hydrogen and cheap renewable energy, fund research and development and train-up and re-skill workers. But it’s entirely possible to decarbonise steel production and reduce our reliance on coal in the process.

[1] Pedal to the Metal - No time to delay decarbonizing the global steel sector, Global Energy Monitor, 2021

[2] Solving Iron Ore Quality Issues for Low-Carbon Steel Technology Solutions Are Under Development, IEEFA, August 2022

[3] The end of an era: how the global steel industry is cutting out coal, The Narwhal, May 2021

[4] Technology developments starting to challenge the long-term future of Australia’s metallurgical coal, IEEFA, August 2022

We are building a specialist squad that will publicly protest and call out any companies thinking of entering a business partnership with Whitehaven. By calling them out on their social media channels, emails and phone calls we aim to increase the grief to income ratio so much that they will realise that partnering with a coal company in the climate crisis is #RiskyBusiness.

We are also looking to organise teams in major capital cities to visit the offices of these companies whenever the opportunity arises.

Join the team by filling in this form.

We also meet fortnightly on Thursday evenings for updates, support, and to take quick actions together. Get your Zoom link here.

 

So what are you waiting for?

Together, we can move Australia beyond coal!