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ASX-listed coal miner New Hope has flagged plans to invest some of its windfall fossil fuel profits into renewables, including a potential giga-scale solar and wind-backed pumped hydro project at its controversial New Acland mine site in Queensland.
New Hope, which is also forecasting a “close to doubling” of its coal production levels over the next three years, on Tuesday reported a record $1.09 billion profit off the back of the ongoing global energy crisis, set in train over a year ago by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
New Hope Group CEO Robert Bishop cited an “exceptional performance” across the business in 2022-23 that he said had allowed the miner to “capitalise on the market conditions,” finishing the year with $730.7 million cash and zero debt.
Deep into the company’s results presentation, however, New Hope reveals that it is investigating an “alternative energy precinct” at its New Acland mine, within the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone.
The company says it has conducted a preliminary engineering study into a potential pumped hydro project developed alongside mining operations at the mine site in Oakey, in the midst of Queensland’s Oakey coal and gas power precinct.
New Hope says the project is of a “state significant scale,” with initial analysis identifying around 1.3GWh of “firm” energy storage potential “combined with on-site, grid connected solar and wind generation.”
The company says it is working with the Queensland government and state-owned transmission company Powerlink, including on “progressing a detailed engineering study into civil works and geotechnical as a gateway to feasibility study.”
The choice of site is an interesting one – the New Acland open-cut coal mine in Darling Downs has been mired in legal challenges, spending more than 15 years in the Queensland Land Court over its planned stage three expansion.
This does not appear to have put New Hope off the coal mining game, though.
The company expects its coal production from new and existing assets to rise from 7.9 million tonnes in 2022 to more than 14 million tonnes in 2026 and over 15 million tonnes in 2028, when the world is supposed to be really ramping up its exit from burning fossil fuels, in order to prevent dangerous climate change.
This includes output from New Acland, which – in a devastating outcome for the climate and environment – this year secured all necessary approvals from the Queensland government for Stage 3 to proceed.
New Hope is counting on the ongoing global conflict as well as, somehow, the decarbonisation of global economies to boost demand for its “high quality coal.” As the report notes, without Russia in the mix, Australia provides 64% of the world’s higher grade seaborne thermal coal.
“We believe high quality, low emission Australian thermal coal is critical to supporting the transition to a decarbonised economy,” Bishop said in a statement.
“Our customers rely on our coal to produce secure, essential energy which supports their standards of living and economic development opportunities.”
Sophie is editor of One Step Off The Grid and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.
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