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Author: A. Saunders
Source: The Age
Date: 3rd June 2015

Whitehaven Coal managing director Paul Flynn is calling on the coal industry to “find its voice” and run a public campaign to counter the increasingly effective attacks from the anti-coal movement.

Coal miners are under seige from the growing fossil fuel divestment movement and environmental interest groups that want to bring it to its knees. But the industry have been slow to make its case, and can no longer rely on soft diplomacy, he said.

“From a public perspective, advocacy really does need to be ramped up here,” Mr Flynn said. “The industry needs to find its voice. Those who are ideologically opposed to what we do spray their messages far and wide, and it does affect people who perhaps don’t have access to the facts.

“They [opponents] are quite skilful at crafting a message, which conveniently only uses the facts that suit them. “Mr Flynn is more bullish on the near-term price prospects for thermal coal than many industry analysts. 

He expects it to remain around current depressed levels of $US60 a tonne for about 12 months, before improving about 10 per cent in the second half of the year as the market finds a supply-demand balance. Consensus is that coal will hover around current prices for at least two years.

Premium quality product

“There is no doubt that suppliers of lower quality coals are going to come under more pressure as things pan out in global markets,” he said. But he is confident that the quality of Whitehaven’s product – which attracts a premium because of its low-ash, higher-sulphur content – will see it ride out the incredibly tough market.

Most of Whitehaven’s coal is sold to Japan, while Korea and Taiwan are also sizeable markets.Whitehaven was been at the “forefront” of defence efforts so far because it has spent the past two years building a new mine – Maules Creek in New South Wales – which has became a “focal point” for the anti-coal movement. 

“It was an uncontroversial mine but became controversial because it was the only large scale mine being built at the time that globally-funded NGOs were really focusing on this particular matter. “The coal industry’s approach to date has been to largely ignore it, and “stick to what it does well”. 

“Battling various minority groups and niche parties with agendas isn’t what we’ve been charged to do in the past but we’ve got to do more now.”And that means talking to the community about why coal is “important, necessary and good”. 

“It is fundamental to their (the community’s) future that we continue to have high-efficiency, clean coal in our future energy sources. “Everyone needs to understand that coal is essential for energy security going forward.

“Mr Flynn is bullish about underlying demand, saying it will eventually “soak up” excess capacity. “Longer term everyone needs more of what we’ve got,” he said. “I’m positive about the future. “The attempt to kill off the coal industry is “unique”, he said. “The idea that you can provide wind or solar for billions of people is a false proposition. I think the facts will bear it out but we need to play our part in that.”

 Read the article at The Age