At first glance, Scott Morrison would appear to be coal’s best friend. He unashamedly went into parliament with a lump of coal.

Last week he could have promised his Pacific Island counterparts he would scale back the industry to prevent sea level rises. But he refused to lay a finger on coal.

But while the federal government appears pro-coal on every level, the state governments are making moves that go against this pro-coal mining stance.

The victims

Two examples depict this deviation between the governments’ (both state and federal) talk and action and harm it can cause. The first is Nucoal (ASX:NUC), which had its licenced cancelled without compensation.

For five years it has fought hard for compensation, to no avail. While director Glen Lewis did not respond to Stockhead’s requests for comment yesterday, he has said he would not give up.

“I have a personal resolve, as does the entire board of NuCoal, to fight this injustice until the very end as it is a moral obligation we can’t avoid,” he said in a recent submission to New South Wales parliament.

“After five years, all facts have now been made public and there is no evidence to say NuCoal shareholders are guilty of anything, except investing in an ASX company that had a vision to create value for all stakeholders in NSW and beyond.”

A substantial proportion of Nucoal’s shareholders are from the US and have been just as angry as local shareholders.

Under Australia’s free trade agreement, the federal government has responsibility for any FTA-contravening state government acts.

And when states are taking actions the federal government does not agree with, Canberra usually speaks out.

While Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is no anti-Adani advocate, she has been attacked by Matthew Canavan for not being pro-mining enough. But Canavan has said little on Nucoal.

Another example is Australian Pacific Coal (ASX:AQC), which fell 40 per cent last Friday when its request for a mine life extension from 2022 to 2027 was denied by the Independent Planning Commission.

While this case has raised less attention, the impact would have been similarly devastating on shareholders.

Good talk, bad actions

Stockhead reached out to shadow minister for resources and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon with these specific cases.

He has been particularly vocal about Nucoal, since he has hundreds of constituents who lost money on the company.

“Scott Morrison and his ministers talk a lot about support for the mining industry but they offer little beyond platitudes,” Fitzgibbon said.

“When Nucoal shareholders sought help after the NSW government legislated to steal their property rights they received no support from the federal government.

“Neither Scott Morrison nor his ministers have raised any concerns about the approvals architecture in NSW which is threatening coal mining projects on the basis of Scope 3 emissions.

“And Morrison government ministers have ignored the threat to the coal industry posed by the mismanagement of the proposed biosecurity levy, which in its current form will impose unjustified costs on our coal sector.

“Scott Morrison wants to use the coal sector to gain political advantage but when it really needs him he is missing in action.”

What more should be done?

Morrison’s election was compared with US President Donald Trump’s election being a shock win for conservatives. While coal was not a nation-wide issue in America in 2016 – there’s no question which way coal miners voted.

But ironically enough coal miners, particularly in Kentucky, have been closing due to bankruptcies. Cloud Peak Energy, Blackjewel and Cambrian Holding are three such examples in recent weeks.

The job losses from these alone have wiped out the number of coal jobs (2,000) — the same number the Trump administration claimed last year to have created.

It is this situation that the Morrison government (and since the last election, the Labor opposition) wants to avoid.

According to the Minerals Council of Australia, the coal industry employs 50,000 directly and 120,000 indirectly.