The Korean Government has announced it will restructure state-owned resources companies KEPCO and Kores, in a move that casts serious doubts over the futures of the Bylong and Wallarah 2 coal projects in NSW.
KEPCO owns 100% of the Bylong Coal Project, in the upper reaches of the Hunter River catchment. According to the Korean announcement, KEPCO will abandon overseas resource developments, and its six subsidiary power generating utilities will be partially privatised and redirected to focus on domestic renewable energy developments.
Kores (Korea Resources Group) is the proponent of the Wallarah 2 coal project on the NSW Central Coast, in the drinking water catchment of Wyong. According to the Korean announcement, Kores will be downsized, and will withdraw from international resources projects.
Local landholder Craig Shaw has campaigned against the proposed new coal project for years, and welcomed the news.
“From a strictly commercial standpoint, this development seems to have been on dodgy ground for a while now”, said Mr Shaw. “If nothing else, the announced restructure of KEPCO will give a much-needed financial reality check for the Bylong Coal Project,” he said.
“You've got to wonder why the Korean private sector would be interested in funding capital-intensive overseas greenfield coal projects like Bylong, especially with the government's renewed focus on renewable energy development. This may be the beginning of the end for the Bylong Coal Project.”
“While the project may have made some strategic sense for Korea five or six years ago, it doesn’t now, given the radical changes we’re seeing in the global thermal coal market. The Korean Government’s reappraisal of its strategy is a very sensible move in this context.”
“This project has already impacted terribly on the Bylong community, and it hasn't even been approved yet. Too many families have already left. If the mine went ahead, it would spell the end for Bylong. We welcome the news that the project is now in doubt, but we desperately need certainty. We need to get on with our lives.”
The Lock The Gate Alliance called on the NSW Government to use the opportunity to cancel the Bylong Coal Project application, and permanently protect the area from mining.
“The NSW Government needs to fulfil its promise of protecting agricultural land from mining, and ensure that no mining project is considered in Bylong. We call on Premier Baird to ensure Bylong is protected from coal mining in perpetuity,” said Lock The Gate's Hunter Regional Coordinator, Steve Phillips.
Mr Phillips said that the uncertain future of the Bylong Project is symptomatic of the ongoing structural decline of the Hunter coal industry.
“The thermal coal industry is in terminal decline”, he said. “More than ever, we need to be protecting and promoting long-term jobs and sustainable industries. We cannot keep letting mining companies dictate the future of our region.”
Korean Government media release:
Korea Herald article: