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A week in coal: 5 December 2014

World Coal,

As we move into the final stretch of 2014, the World Coal news team picks out some of this week’s top news stories from around the world.

A bidding war begins

Mongolia has relaunched an international tender to develop its giant Tavan Tolgoi coal project, as it attempts to boost a flagging economy hit by falling commodity prices and a decline in foreign investment. The tender for the 7.5 billion t coal resource has drawn interest from Mongolia Mining Corp., Peabody Energy Corp. and Japan’s Itochu Corp., while China’s Shenhua also announced its intention to bid for the tender as part of a consortium – despite originally remaining tight lipped on the prospect. This is the second round of bidding for one of Mongolia’s prize assets, after initial bidding for the tender collapsed in 2011.

Prices falling; all around

Here in the UK, we are once again bracing for the annual media event that sees newspapers scrabble to predict how much snow will fall this Christmas. While there is no sign of snowfall as yet, across the world those in the coal industry continue to be affected by falling prices. This week news broke that German mining manufactures are some of the latest casualties, as the VDMA Mining Association predicted a steep 33% decline in revenue. As sales and prices fall, analysts said the industry had scaled down production and introduced “unavoidable” redundancies. However, some professionals remain hopeful of a return to good fortunes in the New Year.

E.ON will focus on renewables

German utility E.ON is to leave the conventional power market to focus on renewables and energy grids, the company announced this week. Its gas, coal and nuclear power business will be spun of into a new company, along with its gas exploration and production and gas pipeline businesses. The trading business will also form part of the spin-off. The move is a response to Europe’s changing power landscape and Germany’s Energiewende, which has encouraged development of renewable generation at the expense of traditional fuels.

The silent majority

In Australia, where coalbed methane (CBM) is a highly contentious issue, supporters of the industry have launched a campaign to make sure their voices are heard just as clearly as the voices of anti-CBM activists. The community group, ‘Yes 2 Gas’ is supportive of gas extraction from coal seams in the north west of New South Wales (NSW), and says it's time the “silent majority” is heard. The community group believes the CBM industry is providing employment opportunities and economic growth. The group has funded a number of large newspaper advertisements featuring local people offering their support for the CBM industry.

US coal industry stands united against Clean Power Plan

Members of the US coal industry have submitted their comments on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), widely criticising the plan as “costly” and “reckless”. Industry professionals fear as much as 20% of the US coal-based fleet could be forced to shutdown, while they also think the nation’s electric grid could become less diverse and reliable, while costs could also increase.

And finally…

And finally, it’s that time of year again; that’s right! It’s time to announce the winner of the coveted bulk ship of the year award. 2014’s award went to the coal carrying vessel, the Soma Maru – a state-of-the-art vessel with a wide beam/shallow draft design, as well as various safety features and energy-saving specifications. The Soma Maru, jointly developed by Sanoyas Shipyard and Mitsui O.S.K Lines, was singled out from tight competition for its versatility and environmental performance. 

Written by Sam Dodson

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