Pressure is mounting on one of the world’s largest insurers, Liberty Mutual, to abandon plans for a new coal mine in Central Queensland after it cited its own environmental policies for a decision to cut ties with the Adani Carmichael project.
Liberty Mutual is the sole ultimate owner of the Mount Ramsay Coal Company, which plans to build the Baralaba South greenfield coal mine south west of Rockhampton.
That’s despite a 2019 policy stating Liberty Mutual is committed to make no new investments in debt or equity securities of companies that generate more than 25% of their revenues from thermal coal mining.
It’s also despite media reports today in which Liberty Mutual says it will take the policy one step further and make no additional direct investment in the coal industry whatsoever.
In addition, there is massive community opposition to the Baralaba South coal mine, with nearby residents and farmers fiercely opposed to the project due to concerns around flood risk, air pollution, and land degradation.
Paul Stephenson, who was born and raised in Moura and is part of a fourth-generation farming family labelled Liberty Mutual “hypocritical”.
"Liberty Mutual has said it will make no new investments in the coal industry. It has also said, at the same time, that it will proceed with the Baralaba South coal mine, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build," he said.
"The company can't have it both ways.
"It's time for Liberty Mutual to come clean and be honest.
"Liberty Mutual must withdraw the Baralaba South project."
Baralaba grazier Brett Coombe said, “We’re opposed to this mine because it will be built on a floodplain next to a river on prime agricultural land.
“It will threaten the quality of the water supply for Baralaba and all systems downstream including the Great Barrier Reef.
“The company also wants to put up a levy bank that will flood country that has never flooded before.
“For a mine that has a limited lifespan, it should not be allowed to create long term damage as is proposed.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said Liberty Mutual’s conflicting attitude to the Adani coal mine and Baralaba South coal mine was typical of large corporations.
“This company clearly wants to green wash its image by withdrawing from the Adani Carmichael coal mine, while continuing to back Baralaba South quietly,” she said.
“As an insurance company Liberty Mutual should understand the risks of this project. The community doesn’t want a mine on this fertile river country. Now is the time for the company to cut its losses, get out of coal and stick with the insurance business.”
Baralaba South also came under fire in October last year for avoiding the Queensland Palaszczuk Government’s new stricter rehabilitation requirements.
Baralaba South still hasn’t submitted an adequate environmental impact study, yet it applied for an environmental authority four days before the new rehabilitation policy deadline of November 1 last year, thereby potentially allowing it to leave unrehabilitated pit voids on the Dawson River floodplain after mining is complete.
The neighbouring Baralaba Coal mine levees broke in 2010 which led to toxic waste water being washed into the river system and eventually being released into the Great Barrier Reef.
Liberty Mutual has previously tried to equivocate by claiming coal produced at Baralaba is “PCI” coal and therefore acceptable under its environmental policy. However the Department of Natural Resources, Minerals and Energy makes it clear that PCI can be exactly the same coal used for thermal coal power generation. Regardless, Liberty Mutual has said it will not invest in any new coal mines. The company must withdraw the Baralaba South project.