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China, India buy up Australian coal field
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Sept 20, 2011

Energy-hungry India and China have snapped up almost all of Australia's next big coal field, the northern Galilee basin, three years before production even begins, a report said Tuesday.

Just 1.2 billion of the more than 20 billion tonnes on offer in the rich Queensland field has not been sold to Indian and Chinese interests, following last weekend's announcement that GVK would buy Hancock Coal's Galilee assets.

The Indian infrastructure giant said it would pay US$1.3 billion for mine, rail and port assets on a 7.9 billion-tonne coal tenement which The Australian newspaper said accounted for about 40 percent of Galilee's current resources.

India's Adani owns a comparable slice, some 7.8 billion tonnes, with another 3.7 billion held by Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, who is developing his deposit in partnership with Chinese investors, according to analysis done for the newspaper.

All Palmer's output is destined for Chinese power stations, in a 20-year deal worth US$60 billion.

The only significant holding not in the hands of the industrialising giants is a 1.2 billion tonne allotment being jointly developed by Australia's Bandanna Energy and American investment firm AMCI.

Indian companies have been racing to snap up the globe's coal assets as they build power projects, steel and other plants to fuel the country's fast-growing economy. India is heavily dependent on coal for power generation.

China is also thirsty for Australia's resources, which has sparked intense debate with a June study commissioned by the left-leaning Greens party showing the local mining industry was 83 percent foreign-owned.

Diplomatic tensions between the two flared in 2009 when Beijing arrested Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu on bribery and state secrets charges just weeks after the firm snubbed a major investment by state-run Chinalco.

Hu, an Australian passport holder, was last year convicted and jailed for 10 years on the charges, which were linked to tense iron ore contract talks.

Surging demand for resources has seen Australia's economy boom, with the value of its mining and energy exports jumping 27 percent in the 12 months to June to Aus$175 billion (US$179 billion) due to high commodity prices.

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