Glencore secures leases for Wandoan coal project, environmentalists react

Glencore (LON:GLEN) announced that it has secured the first mining leases for its $7 billion Wandoan coal project in Australia’s Surat Basin, after applying for them 10 years ago.

On Tuesday, Queensland’s natural resources and mines minister, Anthony Lynham, approved three 27-year leases covering 30,000 hectares for the first stage of the mine. According to the company, the site is expected to produce up to 22 million tonnes of thermal coal a year once operational.

Glencore applied for the leases in 2007. However, the project was then placed on hold in 2013, with doubts over its future development due to falling coal prices.

Even though commodity prices continue to fall, the Anglo–Swiss multinational welcomed the new grant and said it is “taking a responsible approach and will only bring on new large scale production volumes” if its management team is confident that market conditions support such a development.

“Adding significant new tonnes to the market at this time could adversely impact the profitability of existing thermal coal production, potentially putting jobs at risk as the market adjusts downwards as a result of oversupply,” Glencore’s press release reads.

The news was not well-received amongst environmentalist groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, Lock the Gate, Get Up and Greenpeace Australia. The latter published a statement on Wednesday saying that the approval of a new coal lease “shows the government is more interested in propping up the fossil fuel industry than protecting communities and the environment.”

In the voice of Climate and Energy campaigner Nikola Casule, Greenpeace asks the Malcolm Turnbull administration to put a stop to what they call “the lucrative taxpayer-funded handouts designed to prop up the coal industry despite the fact that global coal demand is in decline.”

The activists say that Australian politicians would have to make a choice between new coal mines or having a healthy planet and a thriving Great Barrier Reef.