Monthly Archives: December 2010

Supporter Update: 15/12/10

Kia ora koutou,

Though the end of the year is fast approaching, that hasn’t slowed down
the pace of developments regarding the expansion of coal mining in
Aotearoa/New Zealand: and the tragedy at the Pike River Mine is being spun
by the mining industry as an excuse to allow opencast mining on
conservation land.

Meanwhile, as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment joins
groups such as the Coal Action Network in pursuing Solid Energy for more
information about its lignite mining plans and their greenhouse gas
emission consequences, a new player has arrived on the scene in the shape
of Greywolf Mining, an Australian front company for the Qinghua Group of

There is more news about all that below, but first, what is the Coal
Action Network planning in early 2011, and how can you help with the

(1) Events in 2011

The Coal Action Network is planning to step out from behind the scenes
with public meetings in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch in February
/ March 2011. Once we have dates and venues confirmed, we’ll be asking
Coal Action Network members in those places if you’re able to help with
publicity and with meeting arrangements – and, of course, we’ll also be
asking you to come along!

Then, in May, distinguished American climate scientist James Hansen will
be visiting New Zealand to talk about the crucial decision New Zealand and
the world has to take about coal. Put simply, if we dig up the world’s
coal and burn it, then we will ensure that the climate is rapidly and
dangerously changed, and this will be irreversible over timescales
meaningful to the human race. If we leave it in the ground, then we still
have a chance of avoiding, or at least minimising, dangerous climate

And there is enough coal – especially lignite – in New Zealand that what
this country does will make a significant difference on the world scale.
James Hansen, who has himself been arrested in protests against coal
mining in the US, will be adding a powerful voice to the campaign to Keep
The Coal In The Hole.

2011 promises to be an interesting and active year. There will be plenty
more to talk about as the year goes on, but in the meantime, you can:

* Talk to friends and family about this issue. Especially outside
Southland and Otago, there is a great deal of ignorance about the massive
mining developments planned for that region, and their climate
implications. Make sure the people closest to you know what’s going on.

* Write a letter to your local paper. It may seem very “old media”, but
Letters to the Editor are widely read – not least by politicians. Tell
your community why coal has to stay in the ground.

Now for a roundup of recent developments:

(2) Coal Action Network statement on Pike River Coal

There is blood on every ounce of coal.

The Coal Action Network sends our solidarity and sympathy to the families
and communities on the Coast who have lost loved ones in the Pike River
mining disaster.  This was not a ‘natural disaster’ and like many
tragedies in mines that have come before, and the ongoing deaths of
individual workers in mines every year, workers have again died because of
the companies’ drive for profit.

As the human cost of coal through its extraction and through climate
change continues to grow, perhaps it’s time to ask the question: How much
blood for coal?

Here are two independent perspectives on the issue that provide food for
thought – and debate:

Nandor Tanczos: Pike River – the hard coaled facts:—the-hard-coaled-facts/tabid/1341/articleID/188481/Default.aspx

Matt McCarten: Eventually someone will be held culpable:

(3) Solid Energy: Evasions and Offsets

Solid Energy don’t like being asked awkward questions about their plans to
exploit Southland lignite. When they are asked those questions under the
Official Information Act, they can’t avoid answering, but they try very
hard to limit their answers, and they use the defence of commercial
sensitivity permitted under the Act to remove as much useful information
as they can.

MPs, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and environmental
groups are all pursuing Solid Energy for this information. The good news
is that, even in their attempts to prevaricate, Solid Energy do give away
some useful information. From Solid Energy’s attempts to avoid answering a
recent OIA request by Green MP Catherine Delahunty regarding their plans
for biosequestration, i.e. attempting to offset emissions from their
lignite mining plans by gaining credits for sequestering carbon in living
things, we now know that they are working on the following projects in
this area. Solid Energy says:

“1. Forestry development and acquisition

Along with our currently owned forestry, Solid Energy is investigating
options around exotic and indigenous forestry development.  We have
been actively involved with assessing afforestation propositions and
investigating potential afforestation investments.

2. Mokihinui forest regeneration study

Solid Energy is running a scientific study to investigate the effects
of pest control on the regeneration of indigenous forests.  The
objective of this study is to understand the impact of the removal of
ungulates from native forests and assess the most effective ways to
enhance carbon store.

3. Biomass burial

Solid Energy has continued to investigate the potential of biomass
burial as a source of carbon storage.

– Correspondence from Solid Energy regarding Official Information Act
request, 3 December 2010”

No. 3 on this list is especially interesting. Instead of keeping coal in
the ground, it appears that Solid Energy’s bright new idea is to stick
plant matter in the ground in the happy expectation that it will turn into
more coal in due course.

(4) Qinghua/Greywolf

Australian mining company Greywolf is the recently-formed Australasian
front company for the Qinghua mining conglomerate of China. According to
Greywolf, they have big plans around coal mining, processing and export,
including a lignite mine and lignite-to-briquettes plan for Southland –

Naturally, we share the concern expressed by the Green Party and
Greenpeace about these plans, and we’re no less opposed to them than we
are to Solid Energy’s lignite exploitation plans. There is a risk that
such projects will be handwaved through by Minister Brownlee and not go
through the full consenting process.

(5) Lyttelton

The Lyttelton Port Company’s plans to expand its facilities to export coal
were set back by the Christchurch earthquake. Their response? They are
applying to have their consent applications considered at the Environment
Court, skipping the resource consent stage. We’re working to oppose these
planned developments as well.

So there’s a lot going on. Let’s all have a good break over the holiday
period, and return energised for a strong start to the campaign in 2011.

Tim Jones
for the Coal Action Network

Climate Activists on Trial

Climate Camp Aotearoa Solidarity with UK climate justice activists








Climate Camp Aotearoa sends a message of solidarity across the globe to the 20 climate justice activists found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass in the UK. The activists were among 114 people arrested in a dawn raid  on Easter Monday last year against activists who planned not only to stop carbon emissions from the Ratcliffe coal power station but to be part of a much wider movement for global social justice.

Click here to read our press release

Pike River Disaster

There is blood on every ounce of coal
Coal Action Network sends our solidarity and sympathy to the families and communities on the Coast who have lost loved ones in the Pike River mining disaster.  This was not a ‘natural disaster’ and like many tragedies in mines that have come before, and the ongoing deaths of individual workers in mines every year, workers have again died because of the companies’ drive for profit.
As the human cost of coal through its extraction and through climate change continues to grow, perhaps its time to ask the question. How much blood for coal?
For alternative viewpoints on the Pike River Tragedy try these two articles:

Eventually someone will be held culpable, By Matt McCarten

Someone has to say it. The collective media swooning for Pike River boss Peter Whittall is just wrong.

Of course Whittall is devastated about the miners’ deaths. But he is also the guy in charge of protecting his workers and his company may have failed in that duty.

Instead we have sainthood surreally foisted on Whittall by the media and politicians alike, anointing him as the public face of national mourning for his dead employees and subcontractors.

Yet under his watch, 29 men were killed and still lie entombed. Family members and friends of the dead have been robbed of a loved one. Many other workers, as a result of the explosion, will lose their livelihoods.

Read On…..

Pike River – the hard coaled facts: By Nandor Tanczos

Let’s be blunt – it is time to end the coal industry. It is important that we properly acknowledge the deaths of the 29 men at Pike River, but in the end there is a bigger question to be decided than mine safety.

Read On……

Lignite Costs The Earth

Lignite Costs The Earth
MEDIA RELEASE | Coal Action Network
Thursday 9th December 2010 | For Immediate Use

The Coal Action Network today praised the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) for exposing the high environmental cost of Solid Energy’s plans to exploit South Island lignite reserves in her new report ‘Lignite and climate change: The high cost of low grade coal.’

“For too long, Solid Energy has used greenwash, contradictory statements and snazzy promotional videos to obscure the reality of what they are planning to do in Southland,” said Coal Action Network spokesperson Frances Mountier. “In her report, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has clearly shown how digging up and using South Island lignite would incur a prohibitively high environmental cost.”

“The reality is stark,” continued Ms Mountier. “Solid Energy has managed to lay its paws on 1.5 billion tonnes of lignite reserves.  The PCE’s report states that there are over 6 billion tonnes of economically recoverable lignite deposits in Southland and Otago.[i]  If Solid Energy, L&M and the other companies exploit all 6 billion tonnes, they will be responsible for releasing 8.89 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere.”[ii]

“It’s not true that New Zealand is too small to make a difference on climate change. We can let these companies go ahead with their plans, and bring the world closer to the tipping point of runaway climate change, or we can stop them in their tracks, and make a major contribution to the stability of the world’s climate.

“We need to keep the coal in the hole,” Ms Mountier concluded. “We need to send the message that the mining companies must abandon their plans to mine and burn Southland lignite.”


Frances Mountier, Co-spokesperson for the Coal Action Network

021 175 7484



[i] ‘More than 6 billion tonnes of lignite deposits in Southland and Otago have been assessed as economically recoverable.’  Lignite and climate change: The high cost of low grade coal, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, November 2010, p. 11.

[ii] According to the Ministry for the Environment’s conversion guidelines for lignite: