Liberty Mutual is coming under fire for building the Baralaba South coal mine

Global pressure is mounting on Liberty Mutual to abandon plans for a new coal mine in Australia after it cited its own environmental policies for a decision to cut ties with the nearby Adani Carmichael coal mine.

Liberty Mutual is the sole ultimate owner of the Mount Ramsay Coal Company, which is plowing ahead with plans to build the Baralaba South greenfield coal mine in Queensland, Australia.

The support of this project flies in the face of Liberty Mutual’s December 2019 coal policy, which commits to stop investing in and insuring coal companies. In recent media reports, a Liberty Mutual spokesperson confirmed the implementation of the policy: “Coal mines are a very small part of our overall investment portfolio, and we have since made the strategic decision over a year ago to make no new additional direct investments in the industry.”

Despite this statement, Liberty is continuing to drive forward the Baralaba South coal mine, which it wholly owns.

Paul Stephenson, who was born and raised near the mine’s proposed location and is part of a fourth-generation farming family said: “Liberty Mutual has said it will make no new investments in the coal industry. It has also said, at the same time, that it will proceed with the Baralaba South coal mine, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. The company can’t have it both ways. It’s time for Liberty Mutual to withdraw the Baralaba South project.”

Nearby residents and farmers fiercely are fiercely against the project due to concerns around flood risk, air pollution, and land degradation.

Baralaba grazier Brett Coombe said: “We’re opposed to this mine because it will be built on a floodplain next to a river on prime agricultural land. It will threaten the quality of the water supply for Baralaba and all systems downstream including the Great Barrier Reef. The company also wants to put up a levy bank that will flood country that has never flooded before. For a mine that has a limited lifespan, it should not be allowed to create long term damage as is proposed.”

Activists and farmers across Australia are adding their voice to a global campaign that is pushing Liberty Mutual to ditch fossil fuels and respect Indigenous rights. The #StopAdani movement has been pressuring Liberty Mutual to rule out insuring any part of the Adani coal mine for more than a year, and earlier this month, Liberty finally came out with an unequivocal statement against the project.

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said: “Liberty Mutual’s conflicting attitude to the Adani coal mine and Baralaba South coal mine was typical of large corporations. “This company clearly wants to green wash its image by withdrawing from the Adani Carmichael coal mine, while continuing to back Baralaba South quietly. As an insurance company Liberty Mutual should understand the risks of this project. The community doesn’t want a mine on this fertile river country. Now is the time for the company to cut its losses, get out of coal and stick with the insurance business.”

Earlier this month, the global Insure Our Future campaign (formerly known as Unfriend Coal) released a new set of demands, calling on Liberty Mutual and other insurers to stop supporting all new oil and gas projects and phase out fossil fuel business in line with 1.5ºC. In North America, Liberty Mutual is currently under pressure to not renew its insurance policy for the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, which is up for renewal at the end of August.

Elana Sulakshana, Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said: “From North America to Australia, we are demanding that Liberty Mutual rule out insuring all new fossil fuel projects. For too long, insurance companies have escaped the scrutiny they deserve for facilitating fossil fuel expansion. Instead of fueling climate disaster, companies like Liberty Mutual can play a critical role in accelerating a just transition to a clean energy economy.”