By Eve Sinton
A coal industry-funded organisation, Coal21, plans to spend up to $5 million on an advertising campaign to support coal mining in Australia.
The campaign is aimed at people having limited information about the Australian coal industry and open to being convinced of its future role.
These ‘soft converters’ are identified as men aged 18 to 39 and women aged 40 and over.
Coal21 is seeking proposals from advertising agencies to make their target audience feel “proud about coal”.
The campaign brief appears to have been leaked to the ABC by a source within the advertising industry.
It requests production of media and promotional materials to advocate for the coal sector, including television and radio ads, print advertising and social media promotions.
Coal21 was set up 15 years ago to research low-emission coal technologies. It is funded by mining companies including BHP, Whitehaven, Glencore, Peabody and Yancoal.
Zero commercial success in 15 years
Coal21 regularly gets millions of dollars in government funding for its carbon capture and storage programs, none of which have yet been commercially succesful.
The organisation has expanded its role to promotion of Australia’s coal industry, saying it aims to “assist in making the case for coal to remain a key part of Australia’s future energy supply”.
Commenting on the ABC’s revelations, Renew Economy said they were a further example of how government taxes are being redirected to funding promotional activities for the coal sector.
“[This] follows previous PR campaigns run by Coal21, including advocating for new coal-fired power stations ahead of the 2016 Federal election.
“The group has funded previous promotional campaigns for the coal sector, including the Minerals Council’s ‘Little Black Rock‘ campaign, that was widely mocked on social media.
“The advertising campaign appears to lift the guise that Coal21 had any status as a genuine research organisation and confirms that its likely purpose is to act as another propaganda arm for the Australian coal lobby,” Renew Economy said.
The ABC said while it was issued under the banner of Coal21, the document sent to agencies was actually created by an executive assistant to the chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), the main lobby group for the Australian coal industry.
Coal21’s chief executive officer, Mark McCallum is also employed as the general manager of climate and energy at the Minerals Council.
Minerals Council advertising dept
Dan Gocher, director of climate and environment at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, said: “Coal21 is now essentially the MCA’s advertising department. There is no effective separation between the two organisations, and the MCA’s fingerprints are all over this pro-coal advertising campaign.”
Coal21 is chaired by George J Schuller Jr, who is also is president of Peabody Energy Australia.