The real deal on Westpac’s coal funding

It's not to late to change banks in time for our week of action.

It’s not to late to change banks in time for our week of action.

When we started our campaign against Westpac because of its investment in Bathurst Resources, the company bit back.

No, no, we don’t invest in Denniston, they said.

We were investing in Bathurst before they were planning Denniston, they said.

The facilities we have with them relate to their existing operations, they said. Nothing to do with Denniston, they said.

While we have written to Westpac to clarify all of these points, we haven’t heard back.  They’ve gone silent, instead promoting their so-called sustainability.  But Bathurst’s half yearly report, released recently, is very useful and has provided all the information we think we need.

It certainly doesn’t tell us anything that would lead us to call off the campaign, as Westpac thinks we should.

The Bathurst report (page 18) goes into great detail on its relationship with Westpac  – perhaps in response to our campaign.  Here’s the detail on Westpac from that report:

“In July 2012, the Group obtained a finance facility with Westpac New Zealand Limited for the acquisition of a new mining fleet. The total amount available and drawn on the facility as at 31 December 2013 was $3.5 million.”

This new mining fleet is currently being deployed at the Cascade mine, just down from Escarpment (Denniston).  The thing is, Bathurst’s mining all it can out of Cascade, because it needs as much money as it can to fund the new mine. 

Will none of that fleet be used to take the beautiful Denniston plateau apart?  Even if it isn’t, all of Bathurst’s mines are being used to finance the new one.  So it’s a bit silly to claim they’re not related.

It’s also a bit silly to claim, as they do, that their investments in Bathurst were made before the company had made any plans to mine Denniston.  Bathurst’s whole entry into New Zealand was always all about Denniston and the coking coal up on that plateau.  They’ve bought up all the mines they currently own in order to get this new mine (and the next five mines next to it) up and running.

Next quote from Bathurst’s report:

 “In addition, the Group has with Westpac New Zealand Limited a term loan $1.2m, finance lease facilities $0.3m, and bank overdraft facilities which were unused at 31 December 2013.”

There are no caveats here about where this money from Bathurst’s term loan with Westpac should be spent.  Again, this is about Bathurst having enough money to keep going and start digging up the Denniston Plateau.

Right now the company is in dire financial straits, not helped by the low price of coking coal.  But it’s abundantly clear to us that Westpac is helping this company keep afloat through both loans: the $3.5million loan for its mining fleet and the $1.2million loan and the finance lease facilities.

While Bathurst has said this all-time low price of coal means they won’t start digging any up yet, (while laying off 29 workers), once it gets all the permits approved, it plans to start readying the Denniston Plateau for mining.

We have yet to find out whether this includes removing all the “overburden” [read: beauty, biodiversity], but, with Forest & Bird, have called on them not to do this and for the Minister of Conservation to hold back his permission.

We also note that the Buller District Council is getting very excited about the planning permissions being signed off. It looks like Bathurst may be clear of all the red tape pretty soon.

So it’s still a great time –  if you’re a Westpac customer who wants to do something about Bathurst’s plans to dig up a beautiful part of New Zealand for coal that will ultimately end up in the sky and contribute to climate change – to

Sign up to Make the switch!

It’s not too late to switch away from Westpac in time for our Week of Action beginning 7th April around the country.  So get switching people!

Final note: Westpac is also one of the banks propping up Solid Energy, who, along with Bathurst Resources, are both pretty shaky companies. You’d think they might learn that coal is a bad investment on so many levels.  Maybe they should follow the path of Bill Koch (younger brother to the infamous Koch Industries brothers), who is getting out of the coal mining industry because, in his words, it “has kind of died.”

What agreement did the Government make with Indian coal interests?

Energy and Resources Simon Bridges with the Indian steel delegation in his office in January

Energy and Resources Simon Bridges with the Indian steel delegation in his office in January

Statements made in Indian media by Indian Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma after he met with Energy Minister Simon Bridges on 30 January indicate a clear expectation of some kind of deal between the two Governments on coal, said the Coal Action Network Aotearoa today.

We are looking forward to the Government of New Zealand for allocating mineral assets to Indian public sector companies on a Government to Government basis,” said the Minister in an official press statement after the meeting with Bridges.

Today in the House Steven Joyce, on behalf of Simon Bridges, denied that any promises had been given, but refused to rule out sales of coal mines to the Indians.
Continue reading

Minister of Conservation should halt Denniston Plateau mining

Press release

The beauty of the Denniston Plateau.  Photo: Forest & Bird

The beauty of the Denniston Plateau that Bathurst may remove for nothing. Photo: Forest & Bird

Coal Action Network Aotearoa today called on the Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith, to not issue Bathurst Resources the DOC consent it needs to enter and operate its planned mine on the Denniston Plateau, in light of the company’s terrible financial state.

Bathurst has announced today that it is making 29 workers redundant and that it’s not going to mine coal at Denniston until international prices have recovered. However, it intends to go ahead and set up everything else on the plateau in readiness for mining.

This could include the removal of the “overburden” – the beautiful, biodiverse-rich landscape.

Continue reading

Make the Switch from Westpac!

Kia Ora Koutou

Westpacswitch web 1It’s 2014 and we’re launching a new phase to the Westpac Dump Coal campaign with 350.org where all of you Westpac customers get to switch to a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels, and tell Westpac you’re doing this.

Join other Westpac customers to make the switch April 7-12 2014

We’re giving you all some time to make this switch, and we hope that by early April many of you will have done so and will be able to join a “mass switch” in public, at Westpac banks across the country.  It’s easy:

  1. go to our page and sign up to make the switch
  1. check out our step-by-step guide as to how to change bank accounts. We’ve made it as easy as we can for you, hopefully answering all questions, including a table looking at what your alternatives might be.

There’s other information on the page including template letters to send to both Westpac and your new bank, to make it very clear why you’re taking this action. Continue reading

Groups call on public to dump Westpac for funding Denniston coal mine

Press release from Coal Action Network Aotearoa and 350 Aotearoa 

DumpDennistonLogoCoalThe campaign against Westpac bank’s financial interest in mining on the Denniston Plateau stepped up a notch today when Coal Action Network Aotearoa and 350 Aotearoa launched their “Make The Switch” campaign encouraging people to dump their Westpac bank accounts.

The two groups have today called on customers who oppose Westpac’s financing of Bathurst Resources, who plan to mine the beautiful Denniston Plateau, to dump their Westpac accounts. Public “bank switch” actions will be held across the country in early April.

Click here to join the switch campaign – it’s easy. 

Continue reading

Bathurst hits its own “perfect storm”

Coking coal prices since 2010.
Source: macrobusiness.com.au

When Bathurst resources started sniffing around New Zealand for something to make money from, the price of coking coal (or metallurgical coal = metcoal) was looking pretty good.

It was back in 2007/8 and the commodities world was doing high fives as the demand for steel – and coking coal – soared.  Prices soared.  Bathurst moved into New Zealand, set up with L&M’s Buller Coal, and started the process of trying to get consent to mine the beautiful and ecologically precious Denniston Plateau.

By the time Geoff Butcher, Bathurst’s economic guru, gave evidence in May 2011 to the West Coast Regional Council consent hearing, prices had soared again, to around $300 a tonne, largely due to floods in Queensland mines causing a drop in global supply. His evidence and economic assessments were based on a coal price of $275 a tonne. Continue reading

Ascot Park Hotel In Invercargill Ruins Its Sustainability Story By Choosing Lignite

This is a guest post by Coal Action Murihiku member Dave Kennedy from Invercargill.

Last year Environment Southland revealed that both Invercargill and Gore had exceeded air pollution standards multiple times due to the on going use of lignite and coal for domestic heating and has amongst the poorest air quality in New Zealand: http://www.es.govt.nz/your-council/news/2013/tough-choices-ahead-on-how-homes-are-heated/

Venture Southland has researched a range of energy options available in Southland and has recognised wood as one of the better long-term solutions for our future energy needs, both economically and environmentally: http://www.scribd.com/doc/98146950/Venture-Southland-Wood-Energy-Demand-Assessment-EIS-Energy-Final-Report-WEB

The Dunedin City Council has come to a similar conclusion and conversion to wood pellet heating systems is being actively promoted: http://www.bioenergy.org.nz/wood_fuels.asp

A number of Southland Schools and our swimming pool have replaced coal boilers for ones using wood pellets. Although initial costs were greater than reinstalling a coal system, running costs become cheaper over time and the level of ash produced and maintenance required is much less using wood. Schools felt the health of their children was also an important consideration because the negative effects of using coal are well known. Economically and morally wood fired boilers were the best choice. Continue reading