ANZ Funds Big Coal Boom


After initially hitting Whitehaven Coal where it hurts, the ANZ media release hoax has seen a sustained backlash against the bank itself.

Last week, an action in Melbourne's CBD took the "don't fund new coal" message to ANZ. Online action group Sum of Us are running a petition urging ANZ to do what the hoax media release said and cancel the loan. On Monday many ANZ customers found their local cash machine "out of order" after activists stuck signs on ATMs around the country.

Good. And if ANZ doesn't change their lending policies, long may it continue.

Whitehaven Coal, recently $1.2 billion better off thanks to ANZ, are proposing several new coal mines. One proposed site, Maules Creek, would destroy about half of the Leard State forest, including important Koala habitat, to enable 13 million tonnes of coal per year to be mined for export.

It's a story being repeated throughout New South Wales and Queensland: bushland, prime agricultural land, environmentally sensitive areas and even natural icons like the Great Barrier Reef are standing between the coal industry and its plans to massively expand over the coming decade. There's also the fact that the proposed coal expansion would render it impossible to avoid catastrophic climate change, as this Greenpeace report concludes.

The repetition extends to the role of ANZ in bankrolling these environmentally destructive projects. Bloomberg data shows that since the middle of 2010 ANZ has been party to loans worth nearly $20 billion to companies actively driving the coal expansion in New South Wales and Queensland. These include:

  • US$3.5 billion (AU$3.3 billion) to Anglo American
  • AU$595 million to Centennial Coal
  • US$5 billion (AU$4.75 billion) to BHP Billiton
  • US$6 billion (AU$5.71 billion) to Rio Tinto
  • US$2 billion (AU$1.9 billion) from a $6 billion credit facility to Xstrata
  • US$1 billion (AU$0.95 billion) to Peabody Energy and, as is now famously the case
  • AU$1.2 billion to Whitehaven Coal.

ANZ are also advising GVK on project finance and are playing a lead role in arranging debt for the Indian conglomerate's massive 30 million tonne per year Alpha coal mine in the Galilee Basin.

Combined, these companies are proposing 46 new coal mining projects — either new mines or extensions to existing mines — that would have an annual output of about 340 million tonnes of coal per year, more than Australia as a whole currently produces.

Not all of these loans will have been for the express purpose of enabling specific coal projects, but some clearly are, such as the Whitehaven deal and the $1 billion loan to Peabody to assist with their Macarthur Coal takeover. Others will have been for a range of purposes, including helping these companies manage their ongoing debt.

Nonetheless, all of these loans enable the continuing operation of companies that are gleefully taking part in a coal expansion that will render a safe climate unattainable and ravage parts of the local environment along the way. Banks that purport to believe in sustainability and a healthy environment should on principle be running a mile from companies involved in such wanton destruction.

But ANZ have been lapping it up, more than happy to be financing liquefied natural gas projects on Curtis Island, also within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. ANZ was part of a $1.2 billion loan to Santos for their Gladstone LNG project and helped Origin Energy secure US$2.8 billion for their Australia Pacific LNG Joint Venture.

The other qualifying point worth making here is that ANZ, while clearly keen on a dirty deal, are by no means alone. Syndicates to these loans range from a few banks to dozens and from an Australian perspective, where ANZ is involved, Commonwealth, NAB or Westpac won't be far away. In fact, the latter three banded together with a host of other banks, including Macquarie, to set up a $1.25 billion loan to enable Adani's proposed coal export port at Abbot Point. ANZ deserves a grilling for bankrolling environmental destruction, but so do the others.

If you bank with the big four, this is your money financing environmental destruction. Customers, no less than citizens, have a huge role to play if we're going to protect Australia's environment from the rampant fossil fuel expansion underway.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.