Thermal Coal in perspective, and Adani

First, thermal coal and metallurgical coal are nothing alike.

The world needs metallurgical coal (MC) to make steel.
The world does not need thermal coal, except to power legacy coal-fired power plant and the declining number under construction.

Thermal coal presently trades at under US$90/tonne, whereas MC presently trades over US$200/tonne.

Australian coal exports derived $66 billion in revenue in 2018, and Queensland accounted for more than half of the nation’s total with $35.7 billion.

The mining sector accounts for less than 2% of total employment, and is on a declining trend, principally through increased automation.

Australia’s mineral resource exports derived $248 billion in revenue in 2018 (an all time record), accounting for some 72 per cent of Australia’s goods exports overall. Clearly there is a disconnect as revenue is increasing while employment is decreasing.

In Queensland, thermal coal accounts for about 55% of total reserves.

Adani’s proposed Carmichael thermal coal mine will be massive and will inject revenues into local economies, but very few jobs. Construction is estimated to peak at 1500 jobs and have a 4-fold multiplier. It would at best reduce Queensland’s unemployment rate by 0.3 percentage points, or to 5.6% based on the current rate. Australia’s unemployment rate is presently 5.1%, so the mining industry is certainly no saviour in that regard.

Adani also proposes to go fully automated, so once construction is completed the human factor will be cutting edge small compared to existing coal mines which are continuing to downsize anyway through automation.

Australian diversified miners are moving away from thermal coal because they do not see a good future for carbon-exposed commodities. BHP yesterday noted that „Thermal coal should remain a large market – but over time we expect it to plateau and then decline, as headwinds strengthen.

Yesterday China Stone’s thermal coal mine, planned to be at least 3 times bigger than Adani’s Carmichael, was put on the backburner. China is moving away from thermal coal investment at a rate of knots.

 

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