News that Gloucester Coal shareholders have approved a merger with Chinese state-owned company Yancoal Australia will pave the way for coal profits and ownership of Hunter farmland to shift offshore, said Green Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon.
Gloucester Coal operates the Stratford and Duralie mines in the Gloucester Basin, Tasman and Abel mines in the Newcastle coalfield and has interests in Middlemount mine in the Bowen Basin.
“Gloucester Coal has bought up a good deal of productive food-producing land in the Hunter. In the Gloucester area alone, one local community group estimates that Gloucester Coal now own at least 54 square kilometres of agricultural land and a large number of rural dwellings”, said Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon.
“All of these properties will now be majority foreign-owned and much of the profits from Gloucester Coal’s mining operations will flow straight overseas as dividends.
“Far from boosting the local economy, locals will be left with higher prices, health impacts from coal dust and threats to more sustainable local industries such as tourism and farming.”
Yancoal’s parent company Yanzhou Coal is one of China’s largest coal miners. Yanzhou Coal is set to control 78 percent of the new company and a Singapore-based company Noble will hold 13 percent.
“This merger looks much more like a takeover.
“The Australian Greens have called for a review of foreign investment rules to ensure that the government do not put the coal boom ahead of the food security by allowing foreign-owned mining companies to buy-up prime food-producing land.
“Last year it was revealed that Chinese state-owned mining giant Shenhua Watermark Coal spent about $200 million to buy up 43 farms on the rich farmland in the Liverpool Plains in NSW.
“The percentage of foreign-owned mines in Australia is going up and up. Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approvals for mining grew from $20 billion in 2007 to $75 billion in 2010.
“In last week’s Budget Estimates session I questioned the FIRB about the merger between Yancoal and Gloucester Coal but all details of their decision to approve the merger were kept firmly behind closed doors.
“The FIRB should be much more transparent when giving the thumbs up to create what is expected to be the nation’s largest listed coal company”, said Senator Rhiannon.