Australian mining companies continue to sink billions of dollars into coal mining projects.
With smaller margins and increased global competition, why are companies like BHP and Rio Tinto hedging their future on coal?
It’s no secret, the world has an increasing demand for energy to sustain the ever-increasing population growth of Asia and South America. Creating clean and profitable power generation systems is high on the agenda for governments around the world as more and more attention is focussed on producing efficient energy sources.
“coal is the cheapest fuel”
Alternative energy sources have been reviewed, tried and tested over many years, yet it still seems that coal is the cheapest fuel used to power the power stations of the world. Which ever way we look at it, the alternative to burning coal is to create nuclear power plants which, if accidents occur, can leave in their wake total devastation for decades to come and render parts of the world uninhabitable.
Solar and wind energy are clean fuels, however they are expensive to implement and the power output is not enough to power the vast cities and industrial precincts of developing nations. Geo-thermal and wave power have also been tested and although there has been some success – coal seems to keep on returning as the best, most viable option.
“coal – one of the best options”
Whichever way you want to look at it, coal, despite its negative effect on the environment in terms of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, is emerging as one of the best options.
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With the problem of poorer developed countries finding it difficult to cope with meeting the demands of population growth, a new term has been coined – “energy poverty”.
“18 per cent of the world’s population can’t access electricity”
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), almost 50 per cent of the world’s population has very limited or no access to electricity. What’s even more startling is that 18 per cent of the world’s population does not have any access to electricity whatsoever and 38 per cent are dependent on wood and other basic fuels to power their energy needs.
What’s needed is a way to help impoverished nations realise that access to affordable coal as a fuel, is a reality. Whilst it’s fair to assume that all energy from various sources will be required, the world’s cheapest and most plentiful fuel source, coal, must form a solution in order to combat energy poverty around the world.
Asian coal demand is set to triple by 2035
Location-wise, you’d have to agree Australia is pretty well positioned to be a major supplier to the Asian market – to help supply their increasing coal needs. Coal mining in Australia already generates billions of dollars worth of revenue for mining companies as well as for State and Federal governments.
“demand for coal-fired power plants will increase over the years”
Although demand for coal-fired power plants will increase over the years, there is still resistance from certain financial institutions and fund managers who see coal-fired energy as a problem. Poorer countries rely on funding from various institutions and donors in order to access electricity that has been generated using coal as the fuel source.
The coal industry and the various financing institutions of Asian countries could be heading on a collision course in the coming years. Both parties have their own agenda and the outcome will be anyone’s guess.
What does remain at the forefront of everyone’s mind is that developing nations are eradicating vast areas of natural forest in order to burn timber to power their electricity generating needs. For instance, Pakistan has almost decimated its natural forest to the point where a mere 5 per cent remains.
There is a ‘tipping point’ that will be reached when the world will decide whether to deplete the planet of its natural forests (which could increase global warming and create even more air quality problems), or dig up the natural resources that lie beneath Australian soil.
Australian mining – a new era in coal mining operations
Mining companies in Australia understand the global trend will more than likely point to coal and so they are preparing for this new wave of demand.
“more coal mines are planned in Queensland and NSW”
BHP has already created new and technologically advanced mines to prepare for this new demand cycle. More coal mines are planned in Queensland and NSW in the coming years, in particular the Queensland Galilee Basin, which has been flagged as a source of high-quality coal for countries such as India.
If we look at some of the Indian-based companies who have invested billions in Australian coal mining infrastructure to date, it’s not difficult to see where things are heading.
“Australian coal assets on the radar”
Despite the logistical issues of mining coal some 500 kilometres from the coastal, ship loading ports of Abbots and Hay Point in Queensland, we can’t ignore the possibilities that sooner not later, there will be renewed interest in acquiring Australian coal assets.
The importance of this supports the need for many people who are looking to the mining industry to provide employment, to re-think their options in terms of skills development and training. Opportunities to side-step from almost any career into a mining career are highly plausible and can be achieved, despite what we may read in the media.
BHP Billiton – setting a new standard in Australian mining operations
Take the BHP Billiton Daunia mine in Queensland that was staffed by workers who had no mining experience. Some 50 per cent of its workforce were sourced from all manner of industries, creating a new paradigm in Australian mining jobs.
We were seeing accountants driving dump trucks, retail managers looking after coal mining production plants and unskilled workers being given the chance to develop a solid career in the industry.
BHP had the view that the old days of employing people from the surrounding areas close to a mine were over and if they were to remain competitive in a global market, a new approach was required in terms of human resource management and development.
So what is the takeaway from all of this?
- Coal is a valuable resource.
- Coal is abundant in Australia.
- Australian coal is high quality and is suitable for use in steel mills and as an energy source for power generation
- The world needs coal to power its energy generating requirements.
- Australian mining companies have invested billions in new technology and are preparing for new mines to be developed.
- Vast areas of high quality coal lie waiting to be mined in the inland regions of Queensland.
- More and more mining projects are being reviewed and approved for development.
- Indian power and energy companies like GVK and Adani have invested heavily in Australian mining assets.
- Queensland government officials have held high-level negotiations with Indian officials.
- The world is going to be more dependent on coal in the future.
- Now is the perfect opportunity to get into the Australian mining industry.