Mining giant Glencore has confirmed it will not pursue what would have been one of Queensland’s largest thermal coal mines, and is instead doubling down on an increasingly dubious coal-fired hydrogen and ammonia project.
In the company’s recent climate report, it says: “We do not plan to develop the Wandoan coal resource as a traditional coal mine for the purpose of servicing traditional coal markets.”
The original $7 billion project, which received a mining lease from the Palaszczuk Government in 2017, would have operated for 35 years and could have produced 22 million tonnes of thermal coal each year.
The decision to scrap the Wandoan coal project puts two other planned coal projects in doubt, as they would have relied on a Glencore-built rail line that would have connected to the existing network.
Glencore’s decision to scrap the project comes after a similar decision not to proceed with its Valeria coal mine near Emerald in Central Queensland.
Despite talking up a “blue” hydrogen proposal, which would involve Glencore using four million tonnes of coal per annum from the Wandoan tenement as a feedstock to produce both hydrogen and ammonia, the project faces numerous regulator hurdles.
Lock the Gate Alliance national coordinator Ellen Roberts said the demise of the Wandoan mine showed the writing was on the wall for new coal projects in Queensland.
“Glencore knows that by the time it could have had this mine up and operating, the market for thermal coal will have disintegrated,” she said.
“Glencore’s decision increases the uncertainty for several other proposed coal projects in the region, including New Hope’s Elimatta proposal which was dependent on Glencore constructing a railway to the coast for export.
“Instead of accepting its losses, Glencore has come up with a hare-brained scheme that would involve transporting liquid ammonia 380 kilometres via pipeline to Gladstone.
“Glencore needs to get with the times and invest in renewable energy. Blue hydrogen is a fossil fuel because it requires the burning of coal. It has no future in a decarbonised world.
“The world is shifting towards renewable energy, with the latest Federal Government trade data showing demand for thermal coal from Australia’s Asian trading partners will fall off a cliff in five years' time.
“If Glencore and other coal mining companies in Queensland wish to remain viable, they must move quickly to divest from fossil fuels and pivot instead to more sustainable forms of energy generation.”