U.S. insurer Liberty Mutual will not be filing an environmental impact assessment for a coal project in Australia, it said on Friday, missing a deadline as it weighs alternatives for the proposed mine. Community groups worried about pollution and climate change have been pushing the company to scrap the project, which is expected to produce 5 million tonnes per year of a type of coal mostly used in steel-making but also suitable for power plants.
"As part of our investment processes, we've been evaluating alternatives for our Baralaba investment for some time and will not be submitting an environmental impact assessment for the South Mine at this stage," a Liberty Mutual spokeswoman said. "We remain committed to collaborating with all stakeholders," she added in emailed comments.
Liberty Mutual did not elaborate on the alternatives being considered. The Queensland Department of Environment and Science said Liberty Mutual's local arm was required to submit its environmental impact statement by Friday.
"If they don't submit within the next 12 months, the EIS process lapses," a department spokesman said. After that, a whole new process would have to be started with new terms of reference, he said.
The group leading the fight against the Baralaba South project, Save the Dawson, welcomed the company's decision not to file. "This has been a 10-year process. We need certainty. This project needs to be withdrawn," said group campaigner Paul Stephenson.
The activist group spurred a review of Liberty Mutual's status in the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment group, which the company formally joined in December. Save the Dawson is counting on the state government to stick to a promise not to grant any further extensions for the project to seek approval, Stephenson said.