Whitehaven rushing ahead with new coal mine, backed by NAB and Westpac
Whitehaven Coal has announced plans to start production at a new coal mine this year, flying in the face of global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. What’s worse, the company is pursuing these plans with the financial backing of two of Australia’s biggest banks: NAB and Westpac.
On Friday 21 April, Whitehaven announced it will fast-track mining at its new Vickery coal project, aiming to start construction in June this year. The project will begin with an initial ‘box-cut’, producing 1 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum as early as next year, with Whitehaven then wanting to rapidly ramp up to 10 million tonnes of coal per annum with the full Vickery development.
Whitehaven also disclosed that the coal from this initial Vickery box-cut will go entirely “into the thermal market”, meaning it will all be used in coal fired power stations. This appears to contradict Whitehaven’s claims that Vickery “will produce a majority metallurgical coal for steel-making”, a less emissions-intensive use. Whitehaven is clearly only interested in getting the highest price possible for its climate wrecking coal as quickly as possible, irrespective of the emissions impact.
The opening of the Vickery coal mine is completely at odds with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5˚C. It also flies in the face of the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050 Scenario, which clearly articulated back in 2021 that in order to meet our global climate goals, “there is no need for any new coal mines or mine lifetime extensions.”
While the news of a new coal mine is a devastating blow, there is still work to be done, and an opportunity to limit the size and scale of Whitehaven’s expansionary plans by continuing to push the financial institutions currently backing the miner to cut ties.
NAB and Westpac, as part of a syndicate of 12 banks, loaned Whitehaven $ 1 billion in 2020. Whitehaven’s current loan facility with these banks is due to end in July 2023, but the company says it is currently in negotiations to refinance and extend this loan. With loan discussions reaching their final stages, neither NAB or Westpac have ruled out giving Whitehaven more money.
Whitehaven is planning to spend around $ 4 billion on three new coal mines and expansions: Vickery, Narrabri Stage 3 and Winchester South. These mines have marketable coal reserves of almost 500 million tonnes. According to Market Forces analysis, when emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, these three mines would unleash over 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions over their lifetimes, the equivalent of more than twice Australia’s entire annual emissions.
Convincing Whitehaven’s bankers to walk away now can help ensure these new coal projects never get off the ground, and the coal stays in it. NAB and Westpac’s financing of a company pursuing several new coal projects comes at the expense of other customers and everyday Australians facing worsening floods, bushfires and heatwaves. It needs to stop now.
Tell NAB and Westpac to cut ties with Whitehaven.
Reposted from www.marketforces.org