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Risky Millions: Whitehaven’s methane potential

How Australia’s biggest pure-play coal company could release more than one million tonnes of methane between now and 2050.

By Dr Sabina Assan, Coal Mine Methane Analyst and Chris Wright, Climate Strategy Advisor - Coal Mine Methane, 17 August 2023. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas released during coal mining, with a short term climate impact 82.5 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2).

With four coal mines in operation capable of producing 30 million tonnes of coal annually, Whitehaven Coal Limited (Whitehaven) is Australia’s largest pure-play coal company, and a significant methane emitter.

In this analysis, we highlight that the company plans to greatly expand its coal mining production, releasing over 1 million tonnes of fugitive methane gas in the process.

If approved, the company’s proposed and existing coal mines are on track to double their methane pollution between now and 2030. By 2050, those emissions could have the equivalent short term climate impact of an additional 56 million cars on the road for one year, or 100 million tonnes of CO2-e.


At the same time, this report also highlights that there is a lack of transparency and uncertainty in projecting these emissions. This is due, in part, to inadequacies in Australia’s methane measurement, reporting and verification laws which may result in underestimates of the actual extent of Whitehaven’s methane pollution.

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