Australia’s 15 proposed coal mines would lift industry methane by one-fifth

If approved, Australia's 15 proposed coal mines would increase methane emissions by an estimated 190 thousand tonnes per year.

Dr Sabina Assan

Coal Mine Methane Analyst

29 November 2022 | < 1 min read

On Thursday the federal government closed its first-ever consultation period on the climate change impacts of 15 proposed coal projects. In its submission, Ember revealed the potential scale of emissions of super-potent greenhouse gas methane.

The decision by the federal government to consult on the proposed mines comes after their commitment ahead of COP27 to join the Global Methane Pledge and reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. A recent report by Ember found that Australia could deliver two-thirds of its pledge by tackling emissions from coal mines.

The investigation found that five of the proposed projects across Queensland – China Stone, Winchester South, Caval Ridge, The Range and Alpha Rail – are using outdated emission factors to estimate their fugitive emissions. As a result, emissions from these mines are likely to be even higher than estimated. It underlines a huge challenge Australia faces in understanding the scale of its coal mine methane emissions, which may be double official estimates.

The submission by Ember recommends that none of the thermal coal mines are approved and only two of the proposed metallurgical coal mines are considered.

It's not in Australia's interests to be opening new thermal coal mines. The world is moving beyond burning coal for electricity and is instead embracing cheap renewables. Australia has committed in front of the world to do its part in reducing methane emissions, and thermal coal is an obvious place to start. Based on Ember’s research there are only two mines that could be considered, both of which would extract coking coal for steelmaking, not thermal coal for electricity. And any approval of a new coking coal mine must include binding measures to limit methane emissions. Australia still doesn’t have a complete picture of how big its coal mine methane problem is. Companies should not be permitted to risk the wellbeing of Australians in their pursuit of record high profits.

Dr Sabina Assan Methane analyst, Ember

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