Coal is “not essential to human progress”, Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson has declared in the face of pressure from activist shareholders over the mining giant’s approach to cutting carbon emissions.
“In the case of coal there are viable alternative sources of energy, that do not produce greenhouse gases,” Mr Thompson explained in response to a shareholder question at Rio’s annual general meeting in Perth on Thursday, pointing to the company’s divestment of its coal assets. “We would argue that coal is not essential to human progress.”
It was a different story with iron ore, the raw material used to make steel and Rio’s main profit source, he went on. “In the case of steel, there are no obvious substitutes in a whole range of applications,” he said.
To highlight his argument about the importance of steel, Mr Thompson told the meeting that even wind turbines – the epitome of renewable energy – used a vast amount of steel. And there was no obvious other material that could replace it, he argued.