Whitehaven Coal is the biggest undiversified coal mining company on the Australian share market.

Whitehaven’s plans to massively expand the coal industry are completely at odds with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. To justify its business plans, Whitehaven refers to coal demand scenarios consistent with a catastrophic 3ºC of global warming.

Whitehaven is funded by at least 13 Australian and international banks, including NAB and Westpac. Around half of Australia’s top 30 super funds are also yet to rule out investing in Whitehaven. Many of these financial institutions claim to support the Paris Agreement and goal of net zero emissions yet have continued to support a company pursuing new coal projects inconsistent with these goals.

As the latest climate science makes clear, there is no time to waste. It’s time for these banks and super funds to walk away from Whitehaven.

TAKE ACTION!

Send a message to the banks funding Whitehaven​:

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Your email will be sent to Bank of China, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Industrial & Commercial Bank China, National Australia Bank, Westpac, Mizuho Bank, Bank of Communications, MUFG Bank, Caterpillar Finance Corporation, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, China Everbright Bank, and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance.

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Banks that have loaned to Whitehaven Coal

In February 2020, a group of 12 banks loaned a combined $1 billion to Whitehaven Coal. Also in 2020, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) participated in a separate $52 million loan to Whitehaven, along with two other undisclosed banks.

These financial institutions are enabling Whitehaven’s plans to continue expanding the coal industry, and are at most risk of doing so in future.

wdt_ID Company Name Amount loaned in 2020 Ruled out all funding for Whitehaven? Ruled out funding for Whitehaven's coal expansions? Analysis
1 Bank of China $195 million No No

Bank has no policy addressing coal.

2 Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation $115 million No No

Policy only excludes mountaintop removal.

3 Industrial & Commercial Bank China $110 million No No

Bank has no policy addressing coal.

4 National Australia Bank $110 million No No

NAB's policies supposedly preventing funding for thermal coal have not prevented the bank financing Whitehaven: 

  • Since NAB's 2017 commitment to "no longer finance new thermal coal mining projects", it has loaned to Whitehaven which is developing such projects. It has also loaned to the New Acland Stage 3 coal project, in breach of this policy.
  • NAB's pledge to exit thermal coal by 2035 (five years later than required to be consistent with the Paris Agreement) won’t prevent the bank funding Whitehaven until 2035.
5 Westpac $110 million No No

Westpac’s policies supposedly preventing funding for thermal coal have not prevented the bank financing Whitehaven:

Westpac’s commitment to “limit support for thermal coal mines or projects to existing basins” and implement “strict quality criteria” doesn’t prevent the bank funding certain Whitehaven projects such as Narrabri Stage 3.

Meanwhile, its commitment to “reduce our [thermal coal mining] exposure to zero by 2030” won’t prevent Westpac funding Whitehaven until 2030.

6 Mizuho Bank $100 million No Yes

After its Feb 2020 loan to Whitehaven, Mizuho’s 2021 policy update states it “do[es] not provide financing or investment which will be used for new thermal coal mining projects”. While clearly ruling the bank out of funding proposed Whitehaven mines such as Vickery and Winchester South, Mizuho has failed to rule out funding Whitehaven’s existing coal mines.

7 Bank of Communications $80 million No No

Bank has no policy addressing coal.

8 MUFG Bank $50 million No No

Policy only excludes mountaintop removal.

9 Caterpillar Finance Corporation $40 million No No

Bank has no policy addressing coal.

10 Credit Suisse $40 million No No

Credit Suisse’s coal policies are full of holes (like swiss cheese). Its use of undefined terms such as ‘specifically related to’, ‘credible transition strategy’ and ‘material contribution’ leave room aplenty for further funding for Whitehaven:

“Credit Suisse will not provide any form of financing that is specifically related to the development of a new greenfield thermal coal mine, or where the majority of the use of proceeds is intended for a new greenfield thermal coal mine”.

Credit Suisse remains open to funding thermal coal mining companies with a “credible transition strategy to diversify away from thermal coal and where, in addition, the transaction proceeds make a material contribution to this transition”.

Super funds failing to rule out investment in Whitehaven Coal

Around half of Australia’s super funds (by assets under management) have divested from, or excluded investment in, Whitehaven. However, 15 of the top 30 funds have failed to rule out investment in Whitehaven.

Is your super fund one of the laggards that still hasn’t ruled out investment in Whitehaven Coal? Check the list below and take action! You can also find out more about super funds’ investments in coal, oil and gas companies via our super funds comparison table.

  • QSuper
  • MLC
  • BTFG
  • Colonial First State
  • SunSuper
  • CBUS
  • Hostplus
  • OnePath (now owned by IOOF)
  • IOOF
  • Mercer
  • Catholic Super
  • CareSuper
  • LGIASuper
  • Commonwealth Bank Group Super
  • Spirit Super (formerly MTAA Super and Tasplan Super)

Take action using the form on this page if you’re with one of these super funds.

TAKE ACTION!

Tell your super fund that it must rule out investment in Whitehaven:

Planning for climate catastrophe

Many of the banks funding Whitehaven have publicly stated their support for the Paris Agreement and the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The International Energy Agency has confirmed that reaching net zero emissions by 2050 means no new coal mines or expansions can proceed:

“No new coal mines or extensions of existing ones are needed in the [Net Zero Emissions scenario] as coal demand declines precipitously.”

International Energy Agency

May 2021

In stark contrast, Whitehaven is planning to spend around $2 billion on three new coal mines and expansions: Vickery, Narrabri Stage 3 and Winchester South. These mines have marketable coal reserves of almost 500 million tonnes. When emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, over their lifetimes these three mines would unleash almost 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of almost twice Australia’s annual emissions.

In the last five years Whitehaven has more than doubled its production and these new mines would see Whitehaven producing around twice as much coal as it does today well into the 2040s.

To justify these dirty coal expansions, Whitehaven refers to coal demand scenarios that rely on the failure of the Paris Agreement and are consistent with around 3ºC of global warming by 2100. Even at 2°C of warming, the expected increases in temperatures, drought conditions, bushfires, extreme storms and flooding in Australia would be devastating. Global warming of 2ºC would also spell the death of the Great Barrier Reef.

Put simply, Whitehaven’s business model depends on catastrophic ecological, social and economic collapse.

Whitehaven’s proposed $600 million Vickery coal mine is totally out of line with a safe future. It involves mining approximately 168 million tonnes of coal from the Gunnedah Basin, in New South Wales. When emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, the mine would unleash around 370 million tonnes of carbon emissions over its 26-year lifespan, the equivalent of about 70% of Australia’s annual carbon emissions in 2020. 

In 2020, a class action challenging the Vickery coal mine expansion was brought by a group of eight young people from across Australia, represented by Equity Generation Lawyers and assisted by their 86 year-old litigation guardian, Sister Brigid Arthur. The case sought to prevent the federal environment minister from approving the proposed expansion.

In a world-first ruling in May 2021, Justice Bromberg of the Federal Court held that the environment minister has a duty of care to protect young people from the harms caused by climate change. The Court found that the impacts of global warming on young people “might fairly be described as the greatest intergenerational injustice ever inflicted by one generation of humans upon the next”.

As of August 2021, federal approval of the Vickery mine appeared to have stalled while the government appealed the Court’s decision.

Whitehaven’s proposed $1 billion Winchester South coal mine involves plans for a large open-cut coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin. Despite publicly referring to the mine as a “metallurgical coal mine”, the mine will in fact produce at least 40% thermal coal. Winchester South would involve mining approximately 350 million tonnes of coal over a 30-year project lifespan. When emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, the mine would unleash almost 550 million tonnes of carbon emissions in total, more than Australia’s annual emissions in 2020.

Whitehaven’s proposed $400 million Narrabri Stage 3 project (also known as Narrabri South) would extend the life of the existing Narrabri coal mine from 2031 to 2044. When emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, the mine would unleash over 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Whitehaven's Narrabri coal mine - image credit: Google Earth
Narrabri coal mine. Image credit: Google, © 8 December 2018 CNES / Airbus

Destroying the environment and breaking the law

Whitehaven’s existing Maules Creek coal mine is one of Australia’s most controversial mining projects and was strongly opposed by local farmers and Gomeroi traditional owners. Despite a massive community campaign that included a two year blockade, Whitehaven bulldozed hundreds of hectares of critically endangered forest that provide important habitat for rare and endangered species like the Superb Parrot, Regent Honeyeater and Squirrel Glider. 

Whitehaven assured the government that it could “offset” the loss of this woodland by buying and protecting other areas of habitat. Six years later, Whitehaven had not kept its promises, even after being granted multiple extensions by the federal government. In 2021, after a legal challenge by the South East Forest Alliance, the government again varied Whitehaven’s conditions of approval to grant the company a further three years to secure the necessary offsets.

Farmers near the Maules Creek coal mine are also deeply concerned that Whitehaven’s water use is drying out streams and bores. Local farmers have been repeatedly outbid on water licences with Whitehaven paying five times the market value at times for water. In April 2021, Whitehaven pleaded guilty to taking one billion litres of water during a severe drought in New South Wales.

This is not the first time Whitehaven has broken the law. The company’s mines are renowned for a litany of environmental breaches, many of which Whitehaven sought to keep secret. The incidents range in severity but many involve breaches of conditions that are imposed to protect communities and the environment from the impacts of mining. In August 2021, Whitehaven was fined $372,500 for 19 breaches of its licence, including failures to rehabilitate drill sites and drilling bores that did not meet approval conditions.

Credit: Lock the Gate Alliance

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Page last updated on the 30th of August 2021. Unless otherwise specified, all currencies are in AUD.

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