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Coal mine workers should transition to steel says resources mogul

Andrew Forrest
Andrew Forrest

An iron ore magnate wants to shut down the $20 billion a year coal sector and pin hopes on metal processing because it might be more environmentally friendly.

Andrew Forrest wants the nation to stop mining coal and establish so-called “green steel” mills that do not require the commodity at all for steel production.

No coal required

The Fortescue Metals Group chairman revealed the proponent is already trialling ways to manufacture “zero-carbon” steel.

“In one, you replace coal in the furnace with our old friend, green hydrogen [and] you get steel but, instead of emitting vast clouds of carbon dioxide, you produce nothing more than water vapour. To strengthen the steel, you simply add the carbon separately [and] it bonds into the metal rather than dispersing into the atmosphere – beautiful,” he said in a public statement.

“The other way to make green steel, the radical approach, is to scrap the blast furnace altogether and just zap the ore with renewable electricity.”

‘Just a fact’

Forrest blamed coal heated in blast furnaces during the steelmaking process for generating about 8 per cent of global emissions.

“Our neighbours and customers want to phase out carbon pollution by 2050 and, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, coal will be phased out too – that is just a fact,” he said.

He plans to start building the nation’s first Green Steel Pilot Plant, which is entirely powered by wind and solar energy, in the Pilbara before the end of 2021.

40,000+ jobs promised

Forrest promises every coal mine worker will find a new job in steelmaking.

“If Australia were to capture just 10 per cent of the world’s steel market, we could generate well over 40,000 jobs – more than what is required to replace every job in the coal industry,” he said.

“Not any old jobs but similar jobs – construction workers, mechanics, electricians, engineers – all of the sectors that will be hit when coal is phased out … we stand to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

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