Common sense wins over coal – Australian taxpayer loan to South African coal mine on ice

Following pressure from Australian civil society organisations, Australia’s export credit agency, Efic, has shelved plans to lend Australian taxpayers’ money to the Boikarabelo coal project in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

While Efic has not ruled out future funding of this project and other overseas coal mines, Senate Estimates were told last week that Efic does not have ‘sufficient material to conduct due diligence’ and is not currently conducting any work on the Boikarabelo project.

The proposal for Australian funding of a coal project that would contribute to climate change and pose a significant risk to the human rights of  affected local communities, has been strongly opposed by civil society groups Jubilee Australia, Action Aid and The Australia Institute.

“Given Efic’s disastrous record of funding projects with major environmental and social impacts, it is a relief to hear that they are not currently progressing this loan application,” said Luke Fletcher, Director of Jubilee Australia.

“Efic have supported projects such as Rio Tinto’s mine on Bougainville that caused the civil war there, BHP’s Ok Tedi mine which is synonymous with environmental disaster and most recently the PNG LNG project which is exacerbating civil conflict in the PNG Southern Highlands. Our fear is that Boikarabelo will be the next Efic disaster.”

Michelle Higelin, ActionAid’s Interim Executive Director said “This is a victory for the women of the Limpopo province in South Africa who bravely took on the mining company Resgen to demand their rights be respected.  They will be thrilled that EFIC has ruled out funding the Boikarabelo coal mine. The mine had already begun causing hardship for their community.”

“The Boikarabelo case has exposed Efic’s lack of accountability and transparency. It is time for the Government to introduce standards, criteria and transparency so taxpayer money is being wisely invested.”

Australia Institute Research Director Rod Campbell said “the Australian coal industry should join with civil society in celebrating Efic’s decision. The economic madness of funding a coal mine that competes with our own potential exports to India has been averted temporarily.”

“Efic and the Australian Government need to rule out any further taxpayer support for this project and any other new coal mines.”

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