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A week in coal: 12 September 2014

World Coal,

A number of developments in Mongolia caught the attention this week, as both Aspire Mining and Viking Mines continue to make progress with their various coal mining projects. Environmental baseline studies have begun at the Berkh Uul coal project – for which Viking Mines has launched a takeover bid. Meanwhile, Aspire Mining announced that its exploration programme had commenced at the Nuurstei coal project, as the first drill rig at the site has now been mobilised. Aspire also announced that Tenova Takraf had completed a concept study for the company’s coal blending facility, which would be built at the Sainshand Industrial Park adjacent to the Trans-Mongolian (T-M) railway in southern Mongolia. Progress has in turn been made in regards to the T-M railway, as the Mongolian Ministry of Roads and Transportation signed an agreement with JSC Russian Railways to modernise and extend the rail network.

Elsewhere around the world’s coal industry came news that the Indian Cabinet had approved the sale of a further 10% stake in Coal India (CIL) for about US$3.9 billion. The approval comes despite threats of strike action by coal miners, should the government go ahead with the sale.

In the US, expect further news of legal wrangling between US state officials and Ambre Energy, which has now appealed against the State of Oregon’s decision not to award the company a permit for the proposed Morrow Pacific project – a coal export terminal to be built on the Columbia River. Amber Energy has received support in its appeal from the Port of Morrow, as well as the State of Wyoming. Reports suggest it could take several months before a primary verdict is reached on the appeal – and either Ambre Energy, or the State of Oregon can in turn appeal this verdict if they do not agree with the appeals judge’s decision.

Tensions could be set to rise between Japan and China, as the Japanese Cabinet adopts an ordinance expanding the country’s continental shelf as the country seeks both rare earth elements and coalbed methane (CBM). Japan has been looking into the possibility of using CBM as a means to decrease its dependence on foreign energy. However, a number of political analysts have warned that its “de facto extension” of sovereignty into waters where China is also seeking to increase its influence could prove to be a further point of tension between the two countries.

Finally, sad news from Bosnia, as it was confirmed that five coal miners had been killed by a deadly gas explosion and tunnel collapse at a mine near the town of Zenica. It had been hoped that all 34 miners who were trapped below ground could be saved; yet after only 29 were rescued, rescue teams found the bodies of the remaining five workers over the following days. Mine management has been blamed for acting slowly in bringing rescue equipment to the mine, and also for initially providing authorities and press with incorrect information. A day of national mourning was declared in the Bosniak-Croat Federation, in which the Raspotocje mine is located. 

Written by Sam Dodson

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