The mining sector may have opposed the $23 per tonne carbon tax set for July next year but some of its key players have indicated in-principle support for carbon pricing. Adopting an environmentally friendly policy that’s liquid and open to reform is a positive sign from an industry historically driven by profits at all cost.
BHPBilliton’s chairman Jac Nasser has told shareholders that a carbon price was necessary.
His frank comments were made at the mining giant’s annual meeting in November, 2011.
While they are not an admission of support for the Federal Government’s carbon tax (a form of carbon pricing) his comments are a positive sign for the green revolution.
“We have held the view for some time that to effectively address climate change, some kind of carbon price is necessary,” Mr Nasser said.
“But we can’t talk about the future tax liabilities because we would have to consider 50 other things like commodity prices and exchange rates.”
The mining sector has taken steps to improve its extreme green credentials, adopting best practice standards including switching to environmental cleaning products to reduce soil and water contamination.
BHP has not been alone in its support of carbon pricing.
Fellow mining giant Rio Tinto has also expressed concern about climate change and indicated support for a price on carbon to encourage the development of low-emissions technology.
Rio Tinto’s energy chief Doug Ritchie has said climate change “represents uncertainty and potential volatility to the mining industry”.
Rio Tinto ranks alongside Xstrata and BHP Billiton as Australia’s largest coal producers.
Despite giving in-principle support for climate change action, Australia’s mining sector has largely opposed the carbon tax bill which was passed in September.
The Mineral Council of Australia has argued that a lack of clear policy was creating investment uncertainty.
“The lack of clarity on whether Australia will be taking on a five, 15 or even 25 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 (against 2000 levels) will create significant uncertainty about the level of the carbon price once the ‘fixed’ price phase ends.”
The impact of mining on the environment continues to dominate headlines. Coal seam gas mining has become extremely contentious in NSW and Queensland. Critics claim the process of fracking (forcing air, sand and chemicals deep underground to release trapped gas) is far from eco-friendly. Industrial liquid waste is a key concern.
While mining techniques and environmental protection may be an uncomfortable mix, in-principle support for carbon pricing and recognition of climate change by global mining giants are encouraging signs.
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