Liberty Mutual drops Queensland coal mine project

Published by MAC on 2021-05-07
Source: Insurance Business Mag, Queensland Country Life (2021-05-06)

Farmers celebrate as the proposed Baralaba South project falls flat.

Liberty Mutual has ditched the proposed Baralaba South coal mine project, following sustained pressure from local communities in Central Queensland and the US-based Liberty’s Climate Crisis coalition.

The Baralaba community has a population of about 300 people, mostly farmers and miners who are employed at numerous mines in the region. A recent survey conducted by community group Save the Dawson found 97 per cent of residents were against the South Baralaba coal project, ABC reported.

Paul Stephenson, a member of the Baralaba-based Save the Dawson community group, called on Liberty Mutual to withdraw its application entirely, Insurance Business Mag reported.

The Mount Ramsay Coal Company, which is owned by American insurance behemoth Liberty Mutual, planned to build the controversial mine on prime agricultural land on the floodplains of the Dawson River. At full production, the Baralaba South Mine project would mine up to 6 million tonnes per year of run-of-mine coal to produce up to 3.5Mt/yr of pulverised coal injection and thermal coal products for up to 40 years.

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MAC Australia page (1051 articles)

Liberty Mutual drops Queensland coal mine project

Roxanne Libatique

https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/au/news/environmental/liberty-mutual-drops-queensland-coal-mine-project-254088.aspx

5 May 2021

Liberty Mutual has ditched the proposed Baralaba South coal mine project in Australia following sustained pressure from local communities in Central Queensland and US-based Liberty’s Climate Crisis coalition.

Liberty Mutual is the sole owner of the coal mine, which campaigners claimed would have catastrophic impacts on the rights of the Woorabinda Aboriginal community, local agricultural land and ecosystems (including nearby emu habitats), and the global climate.

The insurer confirmed that it decided not to move forward with the project by refusing to file an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the April 30 deadline. Failing to submit the EIS effectively ends prospects of the coal mine being developed due to the project application process lapsing and new laws that would now apply concerning mine rehabilitation.

Paul Stephenson, a member of the Baralaba-based Save the Dawson community group, called on Liberty Mutual to withdraw its application entirely, publicly state that it is cancelling the project, and rule out support for coal expansion anywhere in the world.

“This is a tribute to the dedicated work of our local community organization and supporters around Australia who have helped us in this fight to protect our land, water, and future. Liberty Mutual has made the right decision by deciding not to lodge an EIS for this hugely unpopular, polluting coal project,” Stephenson said.

Liberty Mutual’s decision comes just a few weeks after Save the Dawson filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment network, which Liberty Mutual joined in December 2020. The insurer is facing expulsion from the UN-backed sustainable investment initiative if the project pushed through.

Liberty Mutual is also under fire for being a top insurer of coal, oil, and gas expansion projects globally and refusing to meet with community members impacted by projects that it insures and invests in.

Elana Sulakshana, an energy finance campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, commented: “Liberty Mutual’s decision to cease building this massive coal mine is the result of powerful grassroots pressure targeting the company and a growing consensus that the climate cannot afford to build any new coal, oil, or gas infrastructure.

“The fact that it took a herculean 10-year campaign by local community groups and the threat of expulsion from a sustainable investment network for Liberty to halt plans to build this climate-wrecking project makes clear how wholly inadequate the company’s current climate policies are.”

Liberty Mutual continues to face pressure from policyholders, politicians, and insurance CEOs to step up its climate ambition and catch up to the best practice policies set by European and Australian insurance companies. It elected sustainable investing expert George Serafeim as a new board member in response to the campaigns.

“We welcome Serafeim to Liberty Mutual’s board of directors, and we hope that he will lead Liberty to adopt sustainability policies that align with a safe climate future and a world in which human rights are respected. That starts with closing the coal policy loopholes to rule out insuring and investing in all new coal projects, broadening restrictions to encompass oil and gas expansion, and ensuring that the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent is obtained for all insured projects,” Sulakshana said.


CQ farmers celebrate after proposed Baralaba South coal mine falls flat

Ben Harden

https://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/story/7233350/us-company-backflips-on-baralaba-south-coal-mine-proposal/

30 Apr 2021

A central Queensland community has welcomed the news that the company behind the Baralaba South coal mine proposal chose not to submit an ‘Environmental Impact Statement’, which was due on Friday 30 April.

The Mount Ramsay Coal Company, which is owned by American insurance behemoth Liberty Mutual, planned to build the controversial mine on prime agricultural land, mapped as Strategic Cropping Land, on the floodplains of the Dawson River.

A survey conducted by the ‘Save the Dawson’ group in Baralaba, 150km west of Rockhampton last year, revealed 97pc of locals opposed the proposed Baralaba South coal mine.

A spokesperson for the US owned Insurer Liberty Mutual said it will weigh alternatives for the proposed mine.

“As part of our investment processes, we’ve been evaluating alternatives for our Baralaba investment for some time and will not be submitting an environmental impact assessment for the South Mine at this stage,” a Liberty Mutual spokesperson said.

“We remain committed to collaborating with all stakeholders.”

Victory for farmers

Baralaba locals are now calling on the Queensland Palaszczuk government to rule out ever allowing a new mining proposal in the floodplains of the Dawson river.

Grazier and Save the Dawson chairman Brett Coombe said this is a win for the environment, the farmers, the graziers in the region.

“We have a really good connection to the country we work and live on and we want to keep it the way it is,” Mr Coombe said.

“We now have surety for the future – we know where we’re going. We can look after the environment here and keep it going for generations ahead.

“This is the best news we could have hoped for.”

Fellow group member Paul Stephenson said this is a tribute to the dedicated work of their local community organisation and supporters around Australia who helped them.

“A decade-long battle has been won today,” Mr Stephenson said.

“Liberty Mutual has made the right decision by deciding not to lodge an EIS for this strongly opposed, polluting coal project.

“The appropriate thing for Liberty Mutual to do now is to withdraw its application entirely, and relinquish the tenements.

Mr Stephenson is pleading to the Palaszczuk government to permanently rule out any future projects that would destroy prime agricultural land and threaten the Dawson River.

“This proposal, on prime agricultural land, 500 metres from a river that supplies drinking water to two Baralaba and Woorabinda was totally inappropriate,” he said.

“This mine would not have served anybody’s best interests – not the community, our environment, or even the company itself.

“We need legislation that will protect Queensland communities from disastrous proposals like this.”

Baralaba South proposal was a greenfield, multi-seam, open-cut coal mine, that would have produced up to 5 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of run-of-mine coal for 30-40 years.

The mine’s location would have been approximately 12km south of Baralaba, between Mt Ramsay and the Dawson River within a Mining Lease of 2 214 hectares which covers strategic cropping land. The mine was planned to be built 500m from the Dawson River on a floodplain where the river spreads to 11km wide during floods.


Following pressure from local community, Liberty Mutual declines to file Environmental Impact Statement for the Baralaba South mine

Liberty’s Climate Crisis

http://libertysclimatecrisis.com/liberty-pauses-mine/

April 30, 2021

Insurance giantLiberty Mutual has indicated that it will not move forward with a massive proposed new coal mine today, after facing a sustained, years-long campaign against the project from local communities in Central Queensland, Australia and pressure from the US-based Liberty’s Climate Crisis coalition.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Baralaba South mine was due on April 30, and Liberty Mutual has confirmed that it is not filing the statement. Failing to submit the EIS effectively ends prospects of the coal mine being developed, due to the project application process lapsing and new laws that would now apply concerning mine rehabilitation. Liberty is the sole owner of this proposed mine, which would have catastrophic impacts on the rights of the Woorabinda Aboriginal community, local agricultural land and ecosystems (including nearby emu habitats), and the global climate.

“This is a tribute to the dedicated work of our local community organization and supporters around Australia who have helped us in this fight to protect our land, water, and future. Liberty Mutual has made the right decision by deciding not to lodge an EIS for this hugely unpopular, polluting coal project,” said Paul Stephenson, member of the Baralaba-based Save the Dawson community group. “Liberty Mutual should now withdraw its application entirely, publicly state that it is cancelling the project, and rule out support for coal expansion anywhere in the world.” (Read Save the Dawson’s full response here.)

This decision comes just a few weeks after Save the Dawson filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment network, which Liberty Mutual joined in December 2020. The insurer is facing expulsion from the U.N.-backed sustainable investment initiative if it moves ahead with construction of the mine.

Liberty is also under fire for its role as a top insurer of coal, oil, and gas expansion projects globally and for refusing to meet with community members impacted by projects that it insures and invests in. The company ignored thousands of questions on climate change and Indigenous rights at its annual meeting on April 14, and its most recent sustainability reports included zero new policies to limit support for fossil fuels, despite a stated commitment to “facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

“Liberty Mutual’s decision to cease building this massive coal mine is the result of powerful grassroots pressure targeting the company and a growing consensus that the climate cannot afford to build any new coal, oil, or gas infrastructure,” said Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “The fact that it took a herculean 10-year campaign by local community groups and the threat of expulsion from a sustainable investment network for Liberty to halt plans to build this climate-wrecking project makes clear how wholly inadequate the company’s current climate policies are.”

As a global laggard in the insurance sector, Liberty Mutual is facing pressure from policyholderspoliticians, and insurance CEOs to step up its climate ambition and catch up to the best practice policies set by European and Australian insurance companies. In response to the mounting campaign, Liberty Mutual elected sustainable investing expert George Serafeim as a new board member this week. 

“We welcome Serafeim to Liberty Mutual’s board of directors, and we hope that he will lead Liberty to adopt sustainability policies that align with a safe climate future and a world in which human rights are respected. That starts with closing the coal policy loopholes to rule out insuring and investing in all new coal projects, broadening restrictions to encompass oil and gas expansion, and ensuring that the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent is obtained for all insured projects,” Sulakshana added.

Liberty’s role as an insurer of the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline is facing particular scrutiny, as the Canada Energy Regulator approved Trans Mountain’s request to hide the names of its insurers yesterday. Despite the ruling, a coalition of Indigenous rights and environmental groups pledged to ramp up pressure on Liberty Mutual and other insurers that have been previously linked to the project and have not yet ruled out supporting it again when the current insurance policy expires on August 31.


Community opposes Baralaba South Mine plans to build on flood plain and prime agricultural land

Inga Stünzner and Rachel McGhee

ABC Capricornia https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-26/queensland-community-opposes-liberty-mutual-mine-baralaba-south/12795120

25 October 2020

A rural town in Queensland’s coal country is fighting the development of a US-owned mine it says will destroy thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land and pollute a major river system.

US insurance giant Liberty Mutual plans to build a coal mine 8 kilometres south of Baralaba, about 120km south-west of Rockhampton, and 500 metres from the Dawson River.

The mining lease for the mine covers a 2,214-hectare stretch of land on a major flood plain, of which half is on what the Queensland Government has zoned as strategic cropping land.

At full production, the Baralaba South Mine project would mine up to 6 million tonnes per year of run-of-mine coal to produce up to 3.5Mt/yr of pulverised coal injection and thermal coal product for up to 40 years.

Landowners in the area say this will be catastrophic come the next major flooding event, despite the mine’s plan to build levee banks.

Less than a kilometre from the proposed mine is Bronny and Paul McLellan’s property — prime agricultural land that backs on to the Dawson River.

They said the levee banks would turn smaller floods into major floods.

“Water has to go somewhere; people say it will just go around the levee bank, but it has to go somewhere and it’s going to come this way,” Ms McLellan said.

“It’s not just low water, it’s dangerously high current flowing water … it will be massive.”

In 2010 the couple were impacted by the worst flood the region had ever seen, and the water was so high cattle were floating on the tops of the McLellans’ lychee trees before being taken to safety.

“We can handle a flood every 50 years, or 100 years, that’s nature. But we can’t handle a flood every few years,” Ms McLellan said.

“I couldn’t go through that one again.”

‘You can’t eat coal’: Former miner opposed to mine

Mr McLellan has spent more than 20 years in mining and, although he supported the industry, he opposed this mine’s location.

“Keep it going in the right place, nothing wrong with it,” Mr McLellan said.

“But over here, it’s just a no brainer.”

Mr McLellan said the proposed project made no sense for the community, and instead of bringing jobs it would waste precious agricultural land.

“You can’t eat coal,” he said.

Survey finds 97pc of community against mine

The Baralaba community has a population of about 300 people, mostly farmers and miners who are employed at numerous mines in the region.

A recent survey conducted by community group Save the Dawson found 97 per cent of residents were against the South Baralaba coal project.

Local grazier and group spokesperson Brett Coombe said the survey received 297 responses, which included all the landholders within 20 to 40km of Baralaba.

“There are town people, all the rural people, and there are local landholders employed in the mine and they probably voted yes, but the majority were against the mine,” Mr Coombe said.

He said more than 99 per cent supported the protection of prime agricultural land.

“We want to see this land improved over the generations for our kids … but it’s not going to happen if we have big mines here,” he said.

Mr Coombe said the land would never be the same, even after rehabilitation, and he was concerned about water contamination.

“They’re going to put a wash plant in, they’re going to put in a tailings dam, we know there will be leeching because we know what this country is like,” he said.

“All that’s under there, close to the river, is sand and it will leech into the water source.”

Mr Coombe said three towns — Baralaba, Woorabinda and Duaringa — all drew their water supply from the Baralaba weir, and would be impacted by potential contamination.

There were also concerns that a levee bank would not hold during a flood.

“In the last flood, the mine wall [at North Baralaba Mine] busted and we had contamination to the water supply, and I guess that can happen again,” he said.

‘Empty promises’

A half-hour drive from Baralaba is the Indigenous community of Woorabinda, which has a population of about 1,000 people.

Community member Douglas Graham has been following the proposed mine closely.

Mr Graham said the Dawson River was part of a large catchment area that flowed to the coast and the Great Barrier Reef.

“If you get stuff in there, it’s going to impact all the way into Woppaburra country around Keppel,” he said.

Mr Graham said the mine could also impact the town’s local water supply, which uses about 200 megalitres a year.

“We have some bores here but most of our water comes through a pipeline from Baralaba and it’s pumped from the Dawson River,” he said.

The mine plans to use 900 megalitres a year, and Mr Graham said it could have a further impact on how much water flowed into its tributaries — particularly during a dry season.

One of these is Mimosa Creek, which runs through the township.

“It’s a very important waterway, especially for us on that side — the Yiman and the Wulli Wulli groups and some of the Ghangalu people as well,” Mr Graham said.

“Our Dreaming, our languages — we’re connected that way.”

Asked whether there was any support in the community in terms of jobs, Mr Graham said there was none from the people he had spoken to.

“We’ve seen that over and over again — it’s empty promises,” he said.

Some support

Grant Becker runs a book exchange in the main street of Baralaba and has spent 30 years in the mining industry.

He sat on the fence on the issue.

“As long as they follow legislation, fill in what they dig out and return the land to its natural formation without leaving and overly suggestive bump after their 40 or so years of mining, then I haven’t got a problem,” Mr Becker said.

He said he had reservations whether this would happen.

“But I’m for it because of what it will do for the community,” he said.

Mr Becker had doubts, but he said only time would tell.

“To a degree, I want to see the best for the community in the town and outside of the town, but I also want to see people get something out of it,” he said.

The ABC approached Baralaba South Coal and put forward the community concerns.

A spokesperson said it would not comment until it submitted its environmental and social assessments to the government early next year, and would then share key findings with its neighbours and other stakeholders for more input.

“As such, it is not appropriate to provide public comments on the specifics of the assessments before they are discussed with direct stakeholders,” they said.

SOURCE: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=14579

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