Union plays down Glencore's decision to cap coal production

Mining giant Glencore's decision to cap its coal production will not halt the growth of Australia's exports, the CFMEU has argued, despite claims it represents a shift away from coal.

Glencore, Australia's largest coal miner, will cap its global coal output at its current level of about 145 million tonnes a year in the wake of pressure from activist shareholders as part of a pivot towards minerals used in renewable energies.

Glencore's Rolleston open cut coal mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin.

Glencore's Rolleston open cut coal mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin.

The company also told investors it recognised the increasing risks associated with climate change.

CFMEU mining national general president Tony Maher said the union did not believe Glencore's announcement about capping coal production would affect their existing operations.

"Nor do we expect future growth of Australian coal exports to be affected, because if it is not driven by Glencore it will be driven by someone else," he said.

"If anything, there might be a short-term boost to coal prices if customers anticipate a restriction to supply and that would not be a bad thing."

Queensland Treasury's figures for 2018-19 forecasted the state's coal production would reach 256 million tonnes.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said Glencore was one of Queensland's largest coal producers and a significant investor in thermal coal, metallurgical coal, copper and zinc.

"Glencore has said it intends to maintain coal production at existing levels, which will continue to deliver returns for all Queenslanders," he said.

"Queensland has rich potential in our existing resources and in new commodities, which means there's a long term sustainable future for the sector, consistent with economic and environmental goals."

It comes despite Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility director Dan Gocher saying the country could no longer budget on the infinite flow of revenues from coal exports and needed to plan for a life beyond coal.

"Today represents 'peak coal' for Glencore," he said.

"Glencore and other coal miners are under pressure from investors serious about taking action on climate change."

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said there was a shift towards renewables.

"That's why, as a state, we've had to take the strong leadership position and that's what it is," she said.

"It's a strong leadership position to ensure that we are not left behind as the economies of the world start to shift.

"That's why we've set the targets of 50 per cent renewables by 2030."

Greens MP Michael Berkman said the announcement showed Adani and the Galilee Basin were at a "dangerous dead end".

"Queensland coal workers and coal towns have sacrificed so much to help build our common prosperity, and we can't leave them to the chaos of the market as coal declines," he said.

"Any politician without a plan for an orderly phase-out of thermal coal with good jobs, housing and security for workers, is not serious about climate change or Queensland's future."

But Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington said Glencore's announcement showed a major company had completely lost faith in Queensland.

"Until the Premier works out that she can't govern with green ideology then we're in for a world of pain," she said.

- with Stuart Layt

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