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The Black Box

Obscurity and Transparency in the Dutch Coal Supply Chain

Every year more than 50 million tonnes of coal flow into the Netherlands, destined either for combustion in coal-fired power plants in this country or for re-export to other European countries for electricity generation there. The capacity to generate electricity from coal in the Netherlands will more than double if the four new coal-fired power plants currently being planned in the Netherlands go forward as envisioned. Much of that coal comes from countries like Colombia, Russia, and South Africa, where sub-standard social and environmental conditions often prevail. A lack of transparency about the origin of coal used in the Netherlands has allowed the electricity companies responsible for importing irresponsibly mined coal to avoid public and political pressure for improving conditions in their supply chain. Increasing transparency in the coal supply chain is an important first step toward improving the sub-standard conditions at coal mines around the world.

This report details the functioning of the coal supply chain and provides a thorough overview of all publicly available information on the origin of coal used in Dutch power plants. The report identifies critical gaps in public knowledge resulting from the lack of transparency provided by electricity companies operating in the Netherlands and analyses whether the degree of transparency provided by electricity companies is in line with international standards.

Authors J. Wilde Ramsing
T. Steinweg
K. Racz
F. Scheele
Type Report
Date January 2012
Theme Energy
Extractives & Mining
Companies Nuon
Delta N.V.
DONG energy
GDF Suez
Responsible organisation SOMO
Countries Netherlands
Regions Europe

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