Coal appears to continue its rollercoaster ride, although on a somewhat upward trajectory.
At the epicentre of this strong resurgence is Asia’s continued thirst for thermal coal. In spite the rise of LNG and renewables, consumption of coal across Asia has barely dropped. China is still investing heavily in coal projects outside its shores, notably in places linked to the Belt and Road project. One reason is to offload coal overcapacity as China cracks down on the polluting industry at home.
With its continued war on smog and a push to boost cleaner energy consumption and limit the use of coal, China is moving fast towards its huge gasification program, which aims to move millions of households and the Chinese industry from coal to gas.
So, the future of coal – although looking bright at the moment – is quite fuzzy at best.
Even the world’s second largest mining company, Rio Tinto, shed its coal operations in Australia, selling its final Australian coal asset – the Kestrel underground coal mine in central Queensland just a couple of weeks after it sold the Hail Creek coal mine and two other coal development projects.
Some analysts have referred to Rio Tinto’s “coal cleanse” as making the company “leaner and greener”.
Arguably, these divestments could make Rio Tinto more appealing to investors who avoided companies that owned coal interests.
With most Australian major banks now loudly proclaiming not to back any new coal developments, it makes one ask what does coal mining have to do to remain relevant in the market?
Again, we are brought to the “g” word: “greening”.
Although being a laggard in the area of change when it comes to greener and cleaner operations, mining companies are beginning to slowly turn the proverbial tide when it comes to implementing or overhauling their operations to bring them in line with more environmentally sound practices. Practices that are proving to be also more economical.
It’s either that, or risk the wrath of the investor, the community, the environmental lobby and even increasingly more, the political parties as has been evident in the case of PT Freeport Indonesia.
In this issue, we cover some leading technological and waste management developments in the mining space: Studies, practical applications and future directions that are shaping mining’s approach to operations. After all, the world is watching and pushing towards cleaner and greener technologies and energy sources. This is not just in the final product, but also its journey from “the hole” to “the workshop”.
In this issue, we also look at the new(er) kid on the block: Lithium.
Driven by our world’s insatiable hunger for energy, lithium and its chemical compounds are proving to possess a wide range of industrial applications, especially in their use in lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) as a power source.
Australia appears to be at the forefront of the potential AU$2 trillion value chain by being able to offer international battery and EV car manufacturers certainty of supply, low sovereign risk, high quality ore, sustainable volumes and breakthrough battery mineral processing technologies.
But, lithium extraction alone does not guarantee a path to riches. Many Australian companies in the lithium space are realising that to remain viable and ahead of the game, they need to implement … innovative and green technology all along the supply chain.
In this edition of The Asia Miner we also look at what is happening in mining in Southeast Asia and focus on all things Indonesia.