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Alcoa Coal Closes in Anglesea, Australia


Anglesea is a beachside town in Victoria with a population of around 2,500 people on the Great Ocean Road - one of Australia’s primary tourist destinations. Brown coal has been mined in Anglesea since 1959, and the Anglesea Power Station was established in 1969 to provide electricity to Alcoa’s Point Henry aluminium smelter (Su and Jones 2017). The open cut coal mine is 325 hectares on Crown land in a unique and biodiverse heathland and connects to the Anglesea Power Station by a three kilometre private road (Su and Jones 2017). The Anglesea Power Station employed around 85 people in 2015 (Arup and Willington 2015), had a capacity of 150 megawatts of electricity and supplied around 40% of Point Henry aluminium smelter’s energy (Su and Jones 2017).

The power station is one kilometre from the boundary of Anglesea and the road from the coal mine is just 500 metres. Using brown coal, and with aging infrastructure, the power station was one of the most polluting in Australia. Health impacts from pollution from coal mining operations are well understood around the world and include heart disease, lung disease and cancer, and the Anglesea Power Station had extremely high sulphur content as explained by Doctors for Environment Australia: “When it is burned at Anglesea Power Station, high levels of sulphur dioxide are emitted. Sulphur dioxide is a respiratory irritant with no safe exposure level of exposure. It can trigger asthma attacks and worsen lung diseases like emphysema” - Dr Eugenie Kayak, Victorian Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia (Doctors for Environment Australia 2014).

Members of the local community had many concerns about the mine and power station. People were concerned about the health impacts, particularly on vulnerable people including children and the elderly; inadequate assessments of the impacts of pollution on human health and particularly a new school that was built in 2011 only one kilometre from the mine; inadequate pollution standards in the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM); inadequate communication from Alcoa to the community and dismissal of community concerns; the powerlessness of the community to speak out against a company that is a major employer and sponsor of the local school and community organisations; the potential expansion of the mine into the Anglesea Heath; and the contribution of the coal fired power station to climate change (Surf Coast Air Action 2013).

In December 2013, Alcoa applied to the Essential Services Commission for an independent electricity generators licence, so it could generate electricity and sell it directly to the market (Vorrath 2014). In February 2014, Alcoa announced that the Point Henry aluminium smelter, which was established in 1963, would close later that year. Alcoa also announced that the Anglesea Power Station was on the market, and it would either be sold or closed by the end of 2014. Members of the community, including local ENGO Surf Coast Air Action (SCAA) and Doctors for the Environment were advocating for the closure of the mine and power station.

SCAA’s purpose is to “stop the damage to our air, health and environment caused by coal mining and combustion on the Surf Coast through advocacy and education” (Surf Coast Air Action). In their submission to the Essential Services Commission, SCAA stated that “local and international scientific and medical evidence shows that Alcoa’s Anglesea operations emit SO2 and particulates at levels that are harmful to health” and that Alcoa wasn’t prepared to invest in technology to reduce pollution as it wasn’t economically viable to do so (Surf Coast Air Action 2013). Security of energy supply is a major debate in Australia, and was used in support of the Alcoa power station, however SCAA’s submission pointed out that Victoria produces a surplus of energy and has immense potential for renewable energy.

Actions to close the mine included public forums, community meetings, rallies, social media, letters to newspapers, submissions to inquiries, petitions, surveys, letters and visits to Members of Parliament and letters to potential buyers of the power station demonstrating that the power station had lost its social license. Unable to find a buyer, and under intense economic and social pressure, Alcoa decided to cease operation of the mine and power station from 31 August 2015 and the anticipated closure of the mine is 1961.

Basic Data

NameAlcoa Coal Closes in Anglesea, Australia
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesCoal

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsAlcoa Anglesea Power Station involved one steam turbine and around 1.1 million tonnes of brown coal each year to generate 150 megawatts of electricity that was transmitted to the Point Henry aluminium smelter via a 45 kilometres high-voltage line.

“Carbon Monitoring for Action estimates the power station emits 1.21 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year as a result of burning coal” (

Alcoa has a lease for 7,221 hectares, with 545 hectares available for mining and approximately 325 hectares mined. The land is unreserved Crown Land leased under the Mines (Aluminium Agreement) Act 1961 (Alcoa 2016).
Project Area (in hectares)7,221
Level of Investment (in USD)163,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population2,500
Start Date01/01/2013
End Date12/05/2015
Company Names or State EnterprisesAlcoa from United States of America
Relevant government actors- Earth Resources Regulation

- Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)

- Environment Protection Authority
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters- SCAA,

- Doctors for the Environment Australia,

- Environment Victoria,

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases


Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject cancelled
Development of AlternativesClose the coal fired power station

Increase renewable energy

Zero carbon emissions for Victoria
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Alcoa couldn't find a buyer for the coal fired power station because coal is becoming increasingly uneconomic, particularly compared to renewables, and the community campaign directly focussed on highlighting that the power station was uneconomic and lost its social licence to operate.

Sources and Materials


Mines (Aluminium Agreement) Act 1961

Minerals Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990

National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999


Yang Su, and David Jones, (2017), ”Healing the ‘Scar’ of the Landscape: Post-Mining Landscape in Anglesea,” in The International Conference on Design and Technology, KEG, pages 182–189. DOI 10.18502/keg.v2i2.613


Alcoa, “Point Henry”, [online], Alcoa website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]

Alcoa, (2016), “Fact Sheet: Anglesea Power Station and Mine Remediation Overview”, [online], Alcoa Anglesea website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]

Doctors for Environment Australia, (2014), “To protect health”, [online], Doctors for Environment Australia website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]

Arup, T. and Willingham, R., (2015), “Alcoa to shut Anglesea coal mine and power plant”, [online], The Age website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]

Surf Coast Air Action, “About”, [online], Surf Coast Air Action website,, [accessed 3 March 2017]

Surf Coast Air Action, (2013), Essential Services Commission letter, [online], Essential Services Commission website,, [accessed 3 March 2017]

Vorrath, S., (2014), “Alcoa plant closure delivers another blow to coal power industry”, [online], RenewEconomy website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]

Other Documents

A satellite image of the Anglesea coalmine and power station. Photo: Google Earth Arup, T. and Willingham, R., (2015), “Alcoa to shut Anglesea coal mine and power plant”, [online], The Age website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]

Meta Information

ContributorAustralian Environmental Justice Project, Lisa de Kleyn, RMIT University, [email protected]
Last update20/12/2017



A satellite image of the Anglesea coalmine and power station. Photo: Google Earth

Arup, T. and Willingham, R., (2015), “Alcoa to shut Anglesea coal mine and power plant”, [online], The Age website,, [accessed 4 March 2017]