Author Archives: cindybax

Mining decision a tragedy for Denniston plateau

DumpDennistonLogoCoalPress release

The news that Bathurst plans to start mining at Denniston on 1 July is a tragedy for the stunning ecology of the plateau, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.

“Not only is this a tragedy for the beautiful plateau, it is also a tragedy for the climate, as every new coal mine is stealing from our children’s future,” said Jeanette Fitzsimons, a spokesperson for CANA.
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Solid Energy layoffs more evidence coal won’t provide secure jobs

Press release 6 June

Coal Action Network activist at the now mothballed Mataura briquetting plant - supposed to provide local jobs, but didn't.

Coal Action Network activist at the now mothballed Mataura briquetting plant – supposed to provide local jobs, but didn’t.

Further layoffs expected today at Solid Energy’s Stockton mine are a warning that coal cannot be relied on for community prosperity and jobs says Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA).

CANA’s new report, Jobs After Coal – a Just Transition for coal mining communities, released two weeks ago, documents the reasons for the world-wide decline in coal mining and argues strongly that workers should not be left to bear the burden of redundancies.

Jeanette Fitzsimons, one of the authors, said “Coal prices are not going up again any time soon, renewable energy is getting cheaper all the time, and climate change means that most of the coal currently available to mine can never be burned anyway.”

“This is all part of the ‘perfect storm’ Don Elder talked of before he resigned.”

“It is urgent to set in place a planning process for communities that are most affected. This should have been done two years ago when the redundancies started, rather than waiting until even more families are suffering.”

“The latest layoffs make it clear that communities cannot rely on a boom and bust industry for their job security.”

A “Just Transition” would provide central government help for a community-led process to analyse where the skills of miners can be transferred to other industries and develop local economic development based on local skills and opportunities.

“It needs to involve all parts of the community – councils, business, unions, iwi, polytechs, ngos,  to plan a future after coal.”

The report provides some snapshots of what other communities overseas have done to reinvent themselves after coal mining, and concludes that the West Coast could do the same with some government resources.

Coal communities deserve better than the “boom and bust” coal industry

We at Coal Action Network have a vision for Aotearoa:  that we are coal-free by 2027.  We’ve arrived at this date as it’s when all the current coal mines in operation around the country will reach their end date.

Our new report released today.

Our new report released today.

It doesn’t include new mines such as Bathurst’s plans for the beautiful Dennison Plateau, where operations have stalled and 29 workers were recently laid off as the coal price has plummeted in the face of a global oversupply.

But imagine if the Government was to draw a line in the sand and state that there would be no more coal mines in Aotearoa.  If they did that today,  this would give coal mining communities the time to adjust, to plan a transition away from coal that involved the entire community, and led to a sustainable future. Continue reading

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.
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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.

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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