Insurers Distance Themselves from Disputed Australia Coal Project as Backlash Grows

By James Thornhill | June 12, 2020

Global insurance companies linked to Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Australia are distancing themselves from the controversial development, as pressure mounts on financial institutions to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry.

A growing global consensus has seen financial institutions from Japan to the U.S. and Europe shun investments in coal projects. Adani’s search for partners in the project, which would open up an untouched basin, has been frustrated as activists increasingly pressure banks, insurers and contractors to abandon the dirtiest fossil fuel.

The pushback comes after the Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday that Liberty International Underwriters, HDI Global SE and AXA SA’s XL Australia, as well as reinsurer Aspen Re, charged Adani for policies covering work at Carmichael since November. The report was based on invoices obtained from an employee at the broker, Marsh & McLennan.

In response to Bloomberg queries, LIU’s parent company Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Hannover-based HDI, and France’s AXA all said they had no active policies in place for Carmichael and had ruled out insuring the project in the future. Liberty and HDI both confirmed they had insured some early site works dating back to 2015. Liberty said its policy expired last October, but it was contractually obligated to a 24-month maintenance period for any defects following the conclusion of the insurance period.

Aspen Group would not comment on individual policies, but said it was reviewing its underwriting appetite for fossil fuels.

Adani won approval last year to proceed with the thermal coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin following a decade-long struggle with regulators and climate action groups.

Australia’s top insurance companies including QBE Insurance Group Ltd. and Suncorp Group Ltd. have steered clear of the Carmichael project, while German company Siemens AG last year drew a backlash from protesters after signing a contract for signaling work on a rail link to the mine.

An employee at Marsh & McLennan, which Adani hired in 2015 to secure cover for the Carmichael mine, leaked the invoices after being frustrated by its lack of transparency on matters relating to the project, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Marsh & McLennan declined to comment on the report.

Adani said in an emailed statement that “details on insurance providers for the Carmichael Project are commercial in confidence, however we have the requisite insurance requirements in place.”

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