News Wrap

IN this morning’s News Wrap: Rio set to join in Indian coal buy-up; Port Hedland strike risk: tugboats pull their weight; and Australia’s energy relations with Asia at risk.

Lou Caruana

Rio set to join in Indian coal buy-up

Rio Tinto is one of a number of companies, including GVK, seeking to sell equity in their coal mines to government-owned Coal India, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

A report in the business newspaper, Mint, said Coal India had received at least 60 proposals from companies such as Rio and GVK to sell it some of its global coal assets.

Coal India has an estimated $US6.65 billion to invest in coal mines over the next five years, as India prepares to import a rising volume of coal.

“There are a certain number of Indian firms as well who have approached us for their assets in Indonesia and Australia,” the report quoted a company executive as saying

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Coal India unit Coal Videsh was earlier involved in talks with global coal firms such as Peabody Energy Corp and Rio Tinto to form a strategic alliance to mine coal in Australia, the US, South Africa and Indonesia, the newspaper reported.

Port Hedland strike risk: tugboats pull their weight

The risk of strikes at Port Hedland has escalated, with two more unions representing tugboat workers seeking permission for a ballot of workers that may lead to industrial action at one of Australia's most economically important ports, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Barely a week after the union representing deckhands on the tugs - the Maritime Workers Union - won permission from the Fair Work Commission to ballot workers over possible industrial action, the unions representing the two other types of workers on the tugs made similar applications to the commission.

The latest development means the engineers on the tugs (represented by the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers) and the tugboat masters (represented by the Australian Maritime Officers Union) are now also in dispute over a new workplace deal with the company that operates the tugs, Teekay Shipping Australia.

The three unions do not have identical demands, but generally they all want improved conditions that reflect the increased workloads at the port, where iron ore exports have risen strongly over the past three years.

Australia’s energy relations with Asia at risk

Australia’s lack of a nationally agreed long-term energy “vision” risks compromising the country’s position as a reliable and competitive energy supplier to north Asia, the Energy Policy Institute of Australia warned Prime Minister Tony Abbott ahead of the high-powered business delegation to the region, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The caution has been sounded as the chief executives of some of Australia’s biggest oil and gas producers, including Woodside Petroleum’s Peter Coleman, BHP Billiton’s Andrew Mackenzie and Santos’s David Knox, are accompanying Abbott in a delegation to north Asia this week.

The party also includes Cath Tanna, chair of BG Group’s Australian business, which is building a $20 billion liquefied natural gas project in Queensland.

The policy institute told Abbott in an April 1 letter that Australia had a critical need for an energy policy with a minimum 20 to 30-year time horizon.

This would provide a consistent policy that overlies changes of government at state and federal levels.

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