Pressed by investors, climate change is increasingly taking centre stage with miners, who, in the main, after being forced into a financial corner, are exiting coal - as long as they can find buyers. If you'll pardon the stretch, it all feels a bit like the vegans infiltrating restaurant menus and supermarket aisles. One day, it's about protests and extremists and the next, it's about a major opportunity for amazing new food, which even the meat eaters are happily scoffing.
In a further sign of the changing times, Rio Tinto, the world's second-biggest mining company, has resigned from the QRC - a gas and coal dominated membership lobby group. Rio Tinto sold its last coal mines in Queensland in August 2018 for $3.95bn - and became the first major mining company to divest from coal. (They maintain membership of the Australian Minerals Council, where they have a seat on the Board.)
In October 2021, Rio Tinto announced a $US7.5 billion plan to reduce emissions by 2030, seeking to halve its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by the end of the decade. Chairman Simon Thompson said:
“CLIMATE CHANGE… IS THE DEFINING ISSUE FOR OUR AGE, AND IS AT THE HEART OF OUR NEW STRATEGY”
BHP left the Queensland Resource Council (QRC) during the last Queensland state election when the group launched a political campaign attacking the Greens. BHP left the World Coal Association (WCA) in April 2018, citing policy differences concerning climate change and a narrow range of activities of benefit to the company as important factors. At the time, as it seeks to lower its carbon footprint, BHP also warned:
"COAL COULD BE PHASED OUT “SOONER THAN EXPECTED” AND THAT THE COMPANY HAS “NO APPETITE FOR GROWTH IN ENERGY COAL REGARDLESS OF ASSET ATTRACTIVENESS.”
BHP announced in November 2021 it's intention to exit coal, with seven operating metallurgical coal mines in the Bowen Basin area of Central Queensland and in Colombia.
While Glencore isn't exactly divesting itself of coal - in fact it bought Rio Tinto's Hail Creek and Valeria projects, the company has put a cap on production. Glencore produces around 25 percent of the world's coal. Glencore has promised to run its coal business to closure by 2050 - a promise that received overwhelming support from its shareholders, but it has also prepared contingency plans to exit should investors force it.
Australia leads the world in GHG emissions because of Australian coal mining and coal exports. Most of it comes out of NSW and Queensland and the remainder from Western Australia.