London — Just five years ago it would have been almost unthinkable that one of the world’s biggest mining companies would not dig any coal. It’s now likely to become a reality. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s second-largest miner, has been steadily backtracking from coal to focus on better assets. It’s now looking for buyers for its remaining coal mines in Australia, and a sale will mark a complete exit from the fuel. Rio’s potential coal-free future is in stark contrast with many of its rivals. Glencore, the world’s top coal shipper, this year increased its exposure by agreeing to pay $1.1bn plus royalties for a large stake in Australian assets sold by Rio. The fuel, which generates about 40% of the world’s electricity, is one of BHP Billiton’s main strategies, while Anglo American has pulled back on plans to sell out of the commodity. While many miners are bullish on coal, the world’s dirtiest fuel has become a flashpoint for a growing movement of investors calling for miners to cut ...

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