News Wrap

IN THIS morning’s News Wrap: Another grim year for commodities, says World Bank; Springvale coal mine licence to permit highly saline discharges; and Labor’s renewable energy plan slammed.

Lou Caruana

Another grim year for commodities, says World Bank

The outlook for commodities remains grim for this year, except that oil will fall a bit less than previously forecast, the World Bank said.

Average prices for fuels such as crude, natural gas and coal will tumble 39% from 2014, while those for materials like metals and fertilisers will fall about 12%, the Washington-based lender said in its quarterly Commodity Markets Outlook released Wednesday.

Springvale coal mine licence to permit highly saline discharges

The NSW environmental watchdog plans to grant a new licence to a Blue Mountains coal mine that will permit waste discharges far in excess of industry guidelines for salt into a river that flows through the World Heritage Area and into Sydney’s main water supply, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has spent months negotiating a new environmental protection licence for an extension of the Springvale underground coal mine near Lithgow.

BHP Billiton smashes iron ore guidance, takes copper write-downs

BHP Billiton will cut back production this year in all of its “pillar” commodities except iron ore, adding to the pressure falling prices have placed on its progressive dividend and growth commitments, according to the Australian Financial Review.

BHP said on Wednesday it was on track to produce 270 million tonnes of iron ore in the current year, after easily beating guidance to post 254Mtpa for the year to June. It is headed for an ultimate expansion target of 290Mtpa.

But the miner also said iron ore was the only one of its four key pillars, which include copper, petroleum and metallurgical coal, set to grow this year.

Labor’s 'economically irresponsible' energy plan

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has placed himself further at odds with coal fan Prime Minister Tony Abbott with the launch of Labor’s desire to achieve 50% renewable energy-supplied electricity in Australia by 2030.

“Labor has described the goal as an ‘ambition’ rather than mandatory, and has pledged to ‘work with industry and the community to put in place the right policy settings’ to make the transition,” Fairfax Media reported.

“The government claimed the proposal would ‘hike power bills for Australian families, pensioners and businesses’ and cost jobs.

“Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said a 50% share of renewable energy by 2030 was "not economically responsible and … technically questionable.”