It’s no secret that the anti-coal movement is well-versed in fighting dirty. However many people will be surprised by the secret document we recently got our hands on, which proves just how low they’re willing to go.
After I discovered this document, and read through it - I had to get up from my desk and get fresh air in the carpark, I was that angry. What I came across was a 17 slide 'funding proposal' to destroy coal mining in Australia created in 2011, a blow-by-blow guide to the dirty tactics that have subsequently been employed over the last four years to discredit coal and destroy the livelihoods of millions of Australians, shedding new light on why the hurdles seem so large for the Carmichael Coal Mine.
Brace yourselves, this post is going to get ugly. Now, we acknowledge that this document is a couple of years old and was a topic in a few media articles at the time. That said, iSeekplant has decided to use its social reach to get this message out again, in light of what we feel are constant, relentless and unfair media and activist attacks on the coal industry (and other mining industries for that matter) which are now seriously jeopardizing progress on important and profitable mining projects. Now that we know these attacks were all 'part of the plan' to start with - it goes a long way to proving our point that the conversation around coal is unfair, incorrect, short-sighted and baseless - its dirty activism and could potentially cause irreparable damage to Australia's economy.
We at iSeekplant believe there is a way to transition Australia away from its coal dependence, both in terms of energy dependence, and economic dependence over time, without anyone needing to resort to these kind of unbelievably scurrilous measures.
The origins of the 'Anti-Coal Movement'.
The movement was started in earnest in 2011, and we recently uncovered the full strategy cooked up by several interested parties, which is aimed at investing in a number of different ways to completely destroy the coal industry. The document is an interesting (and infuriating) read, especially since the anti-coal movement planned to “disrupt and delay key projects and infrastructure, while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry”. The 'research' that funded the report's creation, was supplied, very interestingly, by the Rockefeller Family Fund.
The leaked document was written by Bob Burton from CoalSwarm, Sam Hardy from the Graeme Wood Foundation and John Hepburn from Greenpeace Australia Pacific. It was titled “Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom”, and when the plan was leaked to business reporters, a political backlash was sparked and led by Treasurer Wayne Swan, who called the plan “completely destructive and irresponsible”.
At the time BHP Billiton announced that they were “both disturbed and surprised”, and said that plans to harm the coal industry would be having a “direct impact on the livelihoods of thousands of Australians”.
Rio Tinto also weighed in, calling it a “blue print for economic vandalism”, and saying that it would threaten jobs, investment, and growth.
Document gives detailed plans to burn coal industry down.
The document is a funding proposal aimed at getting the anti-coal movement mobilised, due to Australia being on the verge of an “unprecedented” coal boom. The proposal is inflammatory, and goes on to say that if the industry continues to expand it will have “devastating consequences for the global climate," employing generalist and highly loaded phrases like "global climate tipping points" yet the document is scant on supporting research or scientific back-up.
The 6 elements of the plan, that they were seeking investment and money from interested parties to deliver on were:
- Disrupt and delay key infrastructure projects - challenge and delay ports, rail and mega-mines
- Constrain the space for mining - leverage coal seam gas outrage and point at coal industry
- Increase investor risk - create political uncertainty to make coal mines a bad investment
- Increase costs - remove subsidies and bog down new mines in litigation
- Withdraw the social license of the coal industry - change the story of coal from a backbone industry to a destructive industry in the media
- Build a powerful movement - networks, alliances and social movements
These 'objectives' would be delivered through a range of media campaigns, litigation, social media, advertising and other tactical points including specified 'messages' that would be seeded out to the media. They provided this super-confusing flow chart on page 5 showing how all these tactics intertwine to achieve their unfathomably short-sighted and self-interested objectives.
Targeted Plans - The Battle of Galilee & Hunter Valley
The Galilee Basin was a key focus of their proposed 'activity', the group wanted to drive up the costs for the Galilee Basin, causing such extensive delays that the projects would fail. The activists also hoped that more landowners in the Hunter Valley would be “locking the gate” against coal.
The so-called “Battle of Galilee” was prioritized, as the rail line to the basin was seen as one of the most important pieces of infrastructure since it would “unlock coal from a series of mega-mines” in the area which is rich in high quality coal resource. The plan was to capitalise on the basin's links to the Great Barrier Reef, launching a public campaign which would put it under the international spotlight.
Other plans included building the anti-coal movement and mobilising off the back of the 2011 community backlash to coal seam gas. Martin Ferguson, the Resources Minister at the time, said that the “elaborate strategies which were designed to destroy Australian jobs and industries were very disturbing."
The document also outlined a pitch for funding of up to $5.92 million which was to be used for litigation aimed at stopping the expansions of coal ports, new mines, and major rail lines. Conservative estimates suggests that to-date, this campaign has cost investors closer to $50 million in advertising, agency fees, consulting, litigation and events.
How they proposed to spend the $5.8 million to destroy an industry.
Litigation: $1.35 million
Battle of the Galilee: $925K
Enough is Enough - Hunter Valley: $614K
Activism in Victoria & WA: $280K
Change the Story of Coal (Media costs): $665K
Investor Uncertainty: $220K
Exposing the 'Health Impacts of Coal': $100K
Staff Training, Admin, Management: $1.765 million
In order to 'Change the Story of Coal' one of the strategies proposed the hiring of staff who would be conducting “industry scandal research” so that instead of being seen as something which has created prosperity and jobs for Australia, coal would be seen as destructive, corrupt, and threatening to the global climate.
Movement Received Dodgy Funding.
In an article published by Australian Mining (and mainstream newspapers) in 2012, it was found that the anti-mining activists had received approximately $750,000 in funding from the federal government.
The Greenpeace proposal acknowledges Environment Victoria, The Conservation Council of Western Australia, and the Nature Conservation Council, who received government grants of $211,000, $319,420, and $213,215, respectively in 2011-2012.
Nikki Williams (Australian Coal Association CEO) said that the ACA was deeply concerned about anti-mining groups potentially “misusing public funds”.
John Hepburn, an author of the document in question, has admitted that he received $70,000 from the Rockefeller Family Fund, which is based in the US. Since this document was leaked, the Rockefeller family came out to the press in 2012 and distanced itself from the proposal and the campaign. That said, they were front-and-centre during the Four Corners 'Coal is Dead' story three weeks ago.
Stand up and Speak Up - and DO IT NOW.
In the year 2013-2014, the Queensland Resources Sector contributed 1 in 5 jobs for residents in Queensland. Regardless of their personal environmental views, it defies belief that the anti-coal movement are so willing to drag down an entire industry - taking with it the employment prospects, livelihoods and economic security of almost 1 million people in Queensland alone (not to mention those employed, directly or indirectly by coal in NSW, WA and the rest of the country).
A lot of my previous blog posts have touched on the subject of the 'extreme' nature of language used in the coal debate in the media, and my belief that the industry, and everyone working in it or supplying to it has lost their voice in the argument. What I realise now, after researching this at length, is that we are but a very small voice in a David-and-Goliath battle against a movement that is well funded, well connected and essentially activating a well put together plan to achieve their objectives at ANY COST.
Extremism in any form is worrying, especially when it comes to the Australian economy. The Australian public should voice their disgust at the lengths the anti-coal movement is willing to go to in order to sabotage the coal industry, and in turn, all of the people who rely on the industry for their livelihoods.
If you work in Coal Mining - or supply to mining, infrastructure or any of the associated industries - you need to start making your voice heard. Consider this a rally-cry: so we come out booming just as loud to counter this nonsense before it, as intended, destroys our livelihoods.
The first thing you can do - is write personally to the following contacts and stand up for your opinions on the subject. Those who work in the Hunter Valley should write to their local member for Hunter (Joel Fitzgibbon), or intend to work in the Galilee Basin should contact their Member for Clermont (Michelle Landry). Feel free to comment below and share this post with others in the industry. We have stayed silent too long. Let's get as noisy as they are.
I would also welcome your feedback directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org