In its first Sustainability Development report dealing with climate change released on Monday, Glencore argues that despite the rapid growth in renewable sources, coal will continue to be a mainstay of the global energy mix.
The Swiss mining and commodities trading giant said demand for coal was expected to grow by roughly 7% through 2030 to just over 6 billion tonnes of coal equivalent (btce) from 5.6 btce in 2013.
The growth is primarily driven by emerging markets that continue to build low cost, coal-fired electricity generation plants. Cumulative demand over the period of the study amounts to between 19 – 21 billion tonnes and in order to meet future demand 500 million to 1 billion tonnes of export capacity would have to be developed.
While non-fossil fuel sources are expected to grow by 53% through 2030, total energy produced from renewables (5.47btce) would still be less than from coal.
The seaborne market for coal is also predicted to grow on the back of demand from the steel, cement and chemical industries reaching 1.48 billion tonnes per year from 1.23 billion tonnes currently. While the Pacific region would underpin this growth due to a lack of domestic supply in some countries, the scrapping of European Union coal subsidies is likely to support imports by the region.
This means that if there is no new investment in coal mines and companies and governments increasingly adopt a “harvest strategy”, seaborne supply would halve in 15 years’ time.
Glencore, which produces 131 million tonnes of coal per year from mines in Australia, Colombia and South Africa said its own coal operations would be depleted by 2035 without new investment.
Glencore’s earnings from coal represent 23% of its headline earnings, second to copper at 25%. Glencore’s marketing and trading operations in metals and energy accounts for 23% of income.