Bangkok Post


Fortescue boss plotting a climate change revolution.

- By Damien Cave

Standing at the foot of a diesel truck as large as a dinosaur, Andrew Forrest juggled a microphone and then delivered the message that he knew the miners might see as a threat to their jobs and identities. It was time to go green. As the sun set over the hills of the first mine that set him on a path to enormous wealth, he explained that Fortescue, the Australian company he founded, would no longer just extract and ship 180 million tons of iron ore, the raw material for steel. It would zero out its own carbon emissions and become a renewable energy powerhouse.

“Global warming, all of you know, is really serious, and it’s accelerati­ng a lot quicker than anybody thought,” said Mr Forrest, 59, delivering what sounded like a general’s pre-attack briefing. He told the troops — which is what he calls the workers, whom he tries to visit every few months as Fortescue’s chairman and largest shareholde­r — that everyone else, the government, the other big mining companies, just talked around the problem.

“What you’ll be doing,” he said, scanning the faces of miners and mechanics covered in engine oil, “will be stacks of what you’re best at, which is action. You guys are going to be at the forefront of turning the world green.”

He gave his speech two months ago in the Pilbara, Australia’s mineral heartland. A remote Mad Max desert more associated with rust than recycling, it’s where Fortescue made US$10.3 billion in profit last year by extracting iron ore and selling it mostly to Chinese steel-makers. Along the way, the company burned through 700 million litres of diesel and released 2.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases — more than some small countries.

But Mr Forrest had come to the Cloudbreak mine to paint a cleaner portrait. He told the workers that when they reached their rocking chairs in retirement, they’d tell their grandchild­ren that they had helped change the world. Trying to make sure they would embrace the mission, he told them that green innovation would save their jobs, and as proof, he promised to deliver hydrogen-fueled haul trucks next year followed by drills, trains and processing plants all running on renewable energy.

Turning promises into tangible results — that would be the tough part. His company employs 15,000 people and is worth more than $30 billion. He could lose it all if his plan to decarbonis­e by 2030 and diversify into energy goes wrong. He is essentiall­y gambling with the stable mining company that has made him one of Australia’s richest men. He wants it to become a hightech startup producing five times more renewable energy than the Australian power grid and selling hydrogen to the world’s factories and mills.

His vision is built on the audacious idea that a maverick from a resourceri­ch corner of Earth can do what has not

been done — reform manufactur­ing, stymie Big Oil and help save us all from climate catastroph­e. And he wants to do it with a hulking old industry that is usually vilified at climate conference­s.

In many ways, the criticism makes sense: The iron and steel sector emits 7% of the world’s carbon dioxide (more than all of the world’s cars). And unlike coal, it can’t be phased out unless we no longer want new cars or buildings.

Mr Forrest is either the most or least likely person to pull it off. He earned a doctorate in marine ecology two years ago and announced his crusade after the worst wildfires in Australia’s recorded history.

 ?? ?? GOING GREEN: A helicopter carrying Andrew Forrest flies across the Pilbara region of Australia to his Iron Bridge mine on Aug 21.
GOING GREEN: A helicopter carrying Andrew Forrest flies across the Pilbara region of Australia to his Iron Bridge mine on Aug 21.
 ?? ?? Andrew Forrest: Founder of Fortescue
Andrew Forrest: Founder of Fortescue

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand