Four Big Banks refuse to renew loans to Whitehaven Coal

By Jim Mcllroy 

Photo: Move Beyond Coal/Facebook

Environment groups said the refusal by [Australia’s] Big Four banks to renew a $1 billion loan to Whitehaven Coal — the country’s biggest coal-only mining company — is a win for people power.

Move Beyond Coal (MBC) said on July 17 that National Australia Bank’s (NAB) announcement “sends a clear message to the coal industry, financial institutions and the government” that the movement against coal is powerful.

MBC said NAB and other coal investors’ decision not to finance Australia’s largest undiversified coal company shows “investors see refinancing new thermal coal as too risky”.

MBC said the news is a win for frontline communities, including the Gomeroi people, farmers and land holders in New South Wales and Queensland, who have been fighting fossil fuel developments and Whitehaven Coal’s destructive mines and finance for years.

The Sydney Morning Heralds Simon Johanson said on July 17 that it is “a major rebuff” which will send a signal to other large coal producers and potentially speed up the demise of the sector.

“Whitehaven revealed its funding problems in a quarterly update on Monday [July 10], saying it has managed to source credit for mine rehabilitation, clean-up costs, port, rail and other activities, but could not get a $1 billion finance facility renewed.”

Will van de Pol, spokesperson for Market Forces, said the company’s loan dilemma raised a “red flag” for its investors. “Whitehaven is being forced to finance its operations with cash that could otherwise be handed back to shareholders.”

“Banks have lost interest in funding Whitehaven’s financially reckless and environmentally ludicrous coal expansion plans in the midst of a climate crisis.” He said even Japan’s mega banks, “some of the largest financiers of fossil fuels globally,” have ditched Whitehaven.

MBC is coordinating a national campaign [that has pressured] the National Australia Bank (NAB) to withdraw funding from Whitehaven Coal.

“Over the past nine months, 60 grassroots teams have hosted 150+ actions across three national mobilizations, pressuring NAB to cut ties with Whitehaven Coal and their climate-wrecking expansion plans,” it said.

Almost 150 people joined a MBC webinar on July 17 to discuss the significance of the banks’ refusal to renew Whitehaven Coal’s loan. All acknowledged the work to stop Whitehaven Coal’s coal mine expansions was not at an end, but that there were opportunities to stop other coal mine approvals.

Jim Mcllroy writes for Green Left.

This article was published on July 19, 2023 at Green Left.

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