AFTER years of speculation, mining giant BHP has announced its intention to move away from thermal coal over the next few years and Mount Arthur is now at risk of shutting down if the right buyer can’t be found.
The announcement was made today after BHP released its 2020 Financial Year Results, with plans to reduce risk and exit coal assets through either a demerger or a trade sale.
Whilst BHP has not yet confirmed who it will sell the Muswellbrook Mt Arthur mine to BHP Chief Executive Mike Henry said it will continue some operations in Queensland, mining coking (metallurgical) coal for steel production.
“We are moving to concentrate our coal portfolio on high-quality coking coals, with greatest potential upside for quality premiums as steel makers seek to improve blast-furnace utilisation and reduce emissions intensity,” Mr Henry said.
“We will seek to divest oil and gas assets that are mature or which are likely to realise greater value under different ownership,” he said.
Georgina Woods, New South Wales coordinator for environmental group Lock the Gate Alliance, said BHP holds the responsibility to rehabilitate the land and close Mt Arthur mine in an orderly manner.
“This is the biggest coal mine in Australia and one of the richest mining companies on the planet…surely it is not too much for the public to ask BHP to fill in the holes and invest in a just transition, rather than cutting and running,” Ms Woods said.
“The world is moving away from thermal coal and large companies like BHP, which is among the top 100 greenhouse emitting companies of all time, should rehabilitate the land they have carved up for mining and diversify coal mining communities,” she said.
“The community of Muswellbrook could reap the rewards of rehabilitation, yet BHP seems eager to cut and run and flog this asset off to the highest bidder, whoever they may be,” she said.
Ms Woods said there will be environmental risks if Mt Arthur is sold to a less experienced mining company.
“There is a great risk that less experienced mining companies will move in on these assets and fail to adequately rehabilitate the land,” Ms Woods said.
“Repeat offender and environmental vandal Adani is one of the companies that has been named as showing interest in Mt Arthur,” she said.
“Selling Mt Arthur might make BHP’s greenhouse rap-sheet look better, but the pollution will still be created and leave the Hunter with an even more uncertain future,” said Ms Woods.