Yesterday’s announcement that Centennial Coal, Australia’s largest independent coal company, has failed in its plan to develop one of the richest coal seams in NSW, is a huge victory for people concerned about climate change as well as concerned locals in the Hunter Valley.
The proposed Anvil Hill coal mine has been faced with growing opposition due to climate change impacts as well as local environmental impacts and has been the subject of several legal challenges.

It looks like Centennial have decided that the risks are too big and they announced yesterday that they’re selling the Anvil Hill deposit to Xstrata – the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal.

According to an AAP report, Centennial managing director Bob Cameron said Xstrata was better placed to absorb the risks involved in the development of the Anvil Hill project.

It’s a significant milestone in the campaign to keep Australian coal in the ground.

Analysts have consistently said Anvil Hill is key to the long-term growth plan for Centennial Coal and the sale must have severe consequences for the prospects of the company.

The sale also raises questions about the proposed new coal loader in Newcastle which, if built, will double the capacity of what is already the world’s largest coal export port.

Centennial coal has been part of a contsortium that is planning to build the new coal loader, of which the Anvil Hill mine would be a major supplier. However, Xstrata are co-owners of Port Waratah Coal Services Ltd who operate the existing coal loader.

Earlier this year, Xstrata were calling for Australia to halt new mine approvals to help ease port congestion that’s caused a fourfold increase in penalties paid by the company because of delays. The bottleneck at Newcastle cost Zug, Switzerland-based Xstrata $2.2 million a week in the first half of this year, compared with $500,000 a year earlier, according to Peter Coates, chief executive officer of Xstrata’s coal unit.

Whatever happens as a result of the change in ownership, Greenpeace will continue to campaign to stop the expansion of the Australian coal industry – including the contstruction of the Anvil Hill mine and the new coal loader.

If we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to keep coal in the ground and create an urgent shift to a renewable energy economy.