Barclays, a British multinational finance company has quietly announced it will cease to fund any companies wanting to use mountaintop removal (MTR) to mine for coal.
Mountaintop mining is a contentious issue, particularly in the Appalachian Mountains in the US. It involves using explosives to remove summits and/or ridgelines to access the coal seams underneath. Several studies have shown that the environmental impacts of MTR are substainsial; ranging from wholesale habitat loss, polluted local waterways, loss of headwater streams (these are filled up with debris) as well as a range of human health issues.
Barclays was the largest financial supporter of the practise with one analysis estimating it loaned MTR companies over $550 million US.
An updated Barclays policy document released in March stated that any companies seeking funding must show that it will cease MTR practises “within a reasonable time frame”.
Barclays joins a number of financial institutions who will no longer loan money for MTR methods. This is due to more stringent regulations by US states, declining US shale gas prices and intense opposition by health and environmental officials.
However Barclays still has a long way to go before environmentalists will warm up to the Barclay brand. Last years financial figures show that Barclays is the fourth largest investor in fossil fuels, investing over $18 million US into coal mining companies. JP Morgan holds the dubious top honor of investing the most money in coal – over $22 million US last year.