Coal mining in Australia looks to be increasingly disconnected from reality of late. The industry’s push to massively expand operations in the Galilee basin continues to enjoy strong support from State and Federal Coalition governments, of both political persuasions. This is at a time when both the international market and domestic investment are slumping, creating losses. A new Greenpeace report has warned that Indian conglomerate Adani’s Galilee project is “uncommercial“, and as global climate action grows, the divestment movement gathers pace, and the realities of unburnable carbon loom increasingly large in the minds of investors, the future for coal is anything but rosy. As many people have predicted – the Galilee basin could become a wasteland of stranded assets.

Ian Dunlop’stilt at the board of BHP Billiton has highlighted the risk ignoring the climate imperative poses, kick starting a discussion about BHP Billiton’s contradictory claims of climate leadership while supporting the abolishment of carbon pricing. Cognitive dissonance in the industry was again demonstrated on Monday, when billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart launched “National Mining and Related Industries Day”, celebrating “an industry group that is too often shy about speaking of its efforts and contributions”. Given its vast advertising spend, its fondness for highly paid lobbyists and its expensive and brutal campaign against the mining tax, the thought of the industry being a wallflower is as believable as the World Coal Association’s claim that “high-efficiency coal” is a low-emissions technology.

The coal industry appears to be increasingly delusional about its future, pushing for expansion as investment slows, pretending to acknowledge the climate imperative while supporting the repeal of carbon pricing, and claiming it is shyand green when it is anything but. Despite State and Federal government enthusiasm to expand coal mining and the industry’s willingness to make increasingly risky bets, there is no future for growing coal use in a world struggling to stay under 2DegC of global warming. The vast majority of Australia’s coal reserves – particularly in the Galilee basin – must stay in the ground if the world is to have any hope of addressing climate change.

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