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13 Jul 2020, 14:04
David Reay

German construction company Hochtief doubles down on Australian coal

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

The German-based construction group Hochtief is enjoying a coal boom in Australia despite growing criticism of mining in its home country, write Jonas Jansen and Christoph Hein in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The company’s mining supplies business, Thiess, just won a five-year contract extension to continue operating the Lake Vermont open pit in Queensland, which should generate export sales of around 1.5 billion euros, mostly to Japan, the article says. Hochtief’s Australian subsidiary Cimic, which owns Thiess, said it sees "increasing opportunities" to win customers in Germany and abroad as a result of the deal and its other activities. Cimic plans to launch an IPO of Thiess, which is the largest mining supplier in the world.

But despite the rosy outlook, rival firms are feeling the heat in the Australian market. Siemens was attacked earlier this year by activists, including the Fridays for Future movement, for its involvement in providing rail infrastructure for the controversial Carmichael Mine, which neighbours Lake Vermont and is owned by the Indian firm Adani. They called the project "backward looking" and said it ran counter to Siemens’ promise to "take responsibility for the climate and become carbon-neutral by 2030." Adani has endured years of climate protests over the mine, one of the world’s largest. In addition, the government of Queensland has recently unveiled an 8-billion-euro plan to generate 8,000 megawatts of energy from renewable sources, equivalent to the state’s current coal-fired output. 

After recently upping its investment in Cimic by 174 million euros to 518 million euros, Hochtief looks set to pursue Australian coal for some time to come. But it will be chastened by Siemens’ experience. Following criticism of its involvement in the Adani mine, the German engineering firm announced this month that it wants to phase out operations linked to coal power. However, it did not give a timeline. Meanwhile, the government of Australia remains largely supportive of coal mining.

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