Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

The world’s coal companies are growing, with 54% of them planning to expand operations, according to a Berlin-based environmental NGO. 

Urgewald, in partnership with 30 other NGOs, released its latest “global coal exit list” on Thursday, which revealed that 400 out of 746 coal companies, intend to expand their operations. This is despite increasing pressure for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and for financiers to stop funding it.

The database is the most comprehensive of companies operating along the thermal coal (power station coal) value chain, which represent 89% of the world’s thermal coal production and almost 87% of the world’s installed coal-fired capacity.

Started in 2017, the database now has more than 200 financial institutions as registered users.

The latest data suggests that the time for patient engagement with the coal industry has “definitely run out”, said Heffa Schücking, director of Urgewald. “It is high time for banks, insurers, pension funds and other investors to take their money out of the coal industry.”

Ungerwald’s research found that while the global coal-plant pipeline shrank by more than 50% over the past three years, new coal plants are still planned or under development in 60 countries around the world.

“If built, these projects would add more than 579GW to the global coal-plant fleet, an increase of almost 29%,” the NGO said in a statement.

The database identifies 259 coal-plant developers. Because more than half of these companies are not traditional, coal-based utilities, they are often missed by financial institutions’ coal exclusion policies, the NGO said.

Ungerwald found that more than 200 companies on its “exit list” are still expanding their coal mining activities.

“While some large coal miners, such as South32, have begun offloading their thermal coal assets, most of the world’s largest coal producers are still in expansion mode. Out of the 30 companies that account for half of the world’s thermal coal production, 24 are pursuing plans to still increase their coal production,” the statement said. 

The exit list includes 34 companies that are “coal infrastructure expansionists”; it includes the Indian company Essar, which is building a coal export terminal in Mozambique, and Russia’s VostokCoal, which is building two coal port terminals on the Tamyr peninsula to begin mining one of the world’s largest hard-coal deposits in the Russian Arctic.

steynl@businesslive.co.za