Category Archives: Auckland Coal Action

Auckland Coal Action: Activists carry out Waikato coal mine inspection, leave climate message

A group of eight activists from Auckland Coal Action, many of them grandparents, have carried out an inspection of Solid Energy’s Kopako 1 coal mine in the Waikato to protest its redevelopment, and left a climate change message for the company.

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The mine, near Maramarua, in North East Waikato, has been dormant since the 1990s, but Solid Energy has now begun work to revive it.  The team confirmed after walking into the site that not only has overburden been removed, but coal mining from a seam has begun.

“Solid Energy is undertaking extensive development of this old coal mine, despite having no customers for the coal, and the international industry being in terminal decline,” said one of the activists, Geoff Mason of Auckland Coal Action.

“Meanwhile, the Government has signed the Paris Agreement which means that we have to get out of coal by 2050, globally, which means coal like this has to stay in the ground.

The team walked into the mine site, and spent around an hour at the coalface, wrapping a excavator in “climate crime scene” tape confirming that new mining has removed the overburden and is now digging up coal. They deployed signs and banners, before leaving again.

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Among the activists who inspected the mine today was Phil, a great grandparent.

“I am seriously concerned about a climate changed future for my five great grandchildren – this is why I am here today, to tell Solid Energy and the Government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and keep the coal in the hole,” she said.

Auckland Coal Action is also concerned that one of the potential customers for the mine could be Fonterra, the country’s second-largest user of coal.  Fonterra was planning to open its own coal mine at nearby Mangatawhiri, but has put those plans on permanent hold.

“Solid Energy might be eyeing Fonterra as a potential customer, but Fonterra should be looking at changing its energy source to renewable wood and biomass rather than coal,” said Geoff Mason.

“What is clear is that this mine should be kept out of commission – for the climate, for the local environment and for our future.”

Check out more photos from the action, and watch this video in which Nick from Auckland Coal Action explains what’s on the line:

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This Saturday, It’s Time To March For The Climate

The People’s Climate March is this weekend. Most events are on Saturday 28 November, though there are a few on the 29th. You can check the details of local events (note that there are 4 pages of events – you can move between them at the bottom right of the page).

Why march? Because the Paris climate talks are starting soon, and the New Zealand Government has not only set a ridiculously weak target for emissions reductions, but has a track record of working hard behind the scenes with countries such as Australia, Canada, Russia and Saudi Arabia to prevent or weaken international action on climate change.

So let’s get as many people as possible involved all around the country. Let’s send our Government a message even they can’t ignore: we need real action on climate change, and we need it to start now.

PS: There’s still time to make your submission against Fonterra’s coal expansion plans – and check out this cool Fonterra AGM action by Auckland Coal Action.

Fonterra finally admits its coal mine is “on hold”

By Jeanette Fitzsimons

Fonterra has just confirmed, in a letter to local residents, that its proposed mine at Mangatangi, in the Waikato, is “on hold” – confirming CANA’s claim earlier this year.

Auckland Coal Action protest at Fonterra's proposed Mangatangi mine.

Auckland Coal Action protest at Fonterra’s proposed Mangatangi mine.

We can’t help but smile,  because the day after we wrote a blog in February, saying the mine was “on hold indefinitely” a furious Fonterra claimed in the NBR that the mine was not on hold, but simply “delayed.”

The difference was never made clear to us and we remained puzzled at Fonterra’s overreaction to what appeared to be a nicety of the English language.

Last week, six months later, this is what Fonterra, through its Glencoal subsidiary, said in a letter to local residents:

“It has recently been decided to put the development of Mangatangi mine on hold, given the economic position of Fonterra and the dairy industry generally.”

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Auckland Coal Action Exposes Fonterra’s Dirty Secret: Coal

fonterra-fuel-for-the-future1 Fonterra has a dirty secret it prefers to keep from the world: many of its dairy plants are powered by the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, coal. Fonterra has made noises about switching to renewable forms of fuel, such as wood waste, for its heat plant, but so far, that’s all there’s been – noises. So Auckland Coal Action decide to call Fonterra out. At the annual Fieldays at Mystery Creek near Hamilton, Auckland Coal Action members and friends handed out the leaflet above, together with little bags of wood chips. Here they are in action:

Auckland Coal Action handing out leaflets and bags of wood chips

Auckland Coal Action handing out leaflets and bags of wood chips

Fonterra was badly embarrassed, and event organisers got the protest moved on – but not before it had made a big media impact. Below you can read posts about the action on Auckland Coal Action’s excellent blog, plus a selection of media coverage. Fonterra’s days of hiding its dirty secret are over. Auckland Coal Action coverage

Selected media coverage

Fonterra Sneaks Round The Corner – Part 2

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes… Our recent post about Fonterra’s new coal mine seems to have provoked a flurry of denials from Fonterra and Solid Energy. Why so sensitive? fonterra_still_burns_coal Fonterra says their Mangatangi mine is not “on hold” but “deferred”. This is what they told residents at a meeting of the North Waikato community group some weeks ago. As there was no time frame for the deferral we interpreted this as “on hold”. Can anyone illuminate us as to the difference?

They say the mine is deferred because of delays in meeting environmental requirements, though they told the community earlier it was because of low coal prices.

We calculate the mine is now around 17 months behind schedule. It was to have produced coal this year, but not a sod has been turned. Meanwhile, Solid Energy says it is still considering (“doing work on”) whether to reopen the Kopako 1 mine in the Maramarua coalfield about 5km from the Mangatangi site. This seems to be a re-consideration.

They obtained resource consent for this in 2006 from Environment Waikato. Their website recently announced it and carried job recruitment advertisements, but these have since been removed. An announcement was also seen in the local Franklin paper, and their annual report refers to “resuming production from our Maramarua opencast mining area”.

A local resident received a notice in his letterbox in November saying the mine was going to be reopened; machinery has been moved on site and some surface earthworks done but no coal seems to have been removed yet.

We assume this was a firm proposal until the latest round of Solid Energy’s financial disasters, which may have caused a rethink. Solid Energy said in its 2014 annual report that it has renewed contracts with the two largest coal users in NZ, Genesis (which runs the Huntly power station) and NZ Steel.

In addition, it had signed a new contract for over 100,000 tpy with an un-named customer. Only Fonterra uses coal on this scale. The only alternative we can imagine is a very large new industry that nobody seems to have heard of.

While the NBR report on the latest statements from Fonterra and Solid Energy says we “claimed” Fonterra is the third largest coal user in the country, that is not open to dispute. The figures are all published year by year in MBIE’s Energy in New Zealand report (formerly Energy Data File).

Given the current world price of coal, no business in their right mind would start a new mine for export, so there must be a local customer.

Consider this:

Fonterra has only three coal-fired milk drying plants in the North Island, Waitoa, Te Awamutu and Hautapu, all in the Waikato.Together, they use roughly 120,000 tpy. They have been supplied from Fonterra’s subsidiary,

Glencoal‘s Kopako 3 mine which was scheduled to run out at the end of 2014. Fonterra now says it is due to run out in 2017. It is unclear from observation whether it is still producing some coal, but there is not much machinery there.

Mangatangi (over 100,000 tpy) was planned and scaled to replace Kopako 3 and supply those three plants. If Fonterra has a contract with Solid Energy for more than 100,000 tpy those plants cannot use Mangatangi coal as well.

Solid Energy says in its attempted rebuttal that it sells coal from Rotowaro to Fonterra for its milk drying plants. That will be how they are meeting the new contract while they decide about Kopako 1.

Rotowaro produces a little under a million tonnes a year and is also in decline but is clearly capable of supplying Fonterra’s three North Island plants without reopening Kopako 1 if Solid Energy continues to contract its operations.

Whatever they decide, it is not possible for both mines to go ahead and supply Fonterra, which was the point of our original blog. Fonterra has not commented on contracts with Solid Energy but has clearly “sneaked around the corner”.

Why does all this matter? It matters because coal is the biggest contributor world wide to climate change, and most of what is left must stay in the ground if we are to prevent climate chaos. This is the real issue – everything else is obfuscation.

Unlike NZ Steel, which has very limited options, Fonterra has a ready alternative. Wood chips from forestry residues can run boilers for heat, and in many NZ industries they do already. Fonterra has claimed for over a year now that it is actively investigating renewable fuels for its heat plant, but has made no demonstrable progress and has stopped the trials it was doing at Studholme. fonterra_use_wood_waste

Why are these two companies prevaricating and trying to confuse? What we need is some transparency and some honest communication.

Footnote: there have been media claims that Coal Action Network Aotearoa is trying to stop coal mining. It is very clear on our website that we are not – we are trying to stop new mines opening so the rest can be phased out as they deplete and miners retire, without the abrupt and deep disruptions in coal mining communities that Solid Energy has caused with its drastic and sudden layoffs.

Fonterra Sneaks Round The Corner

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes…

Fonterra’s subsidiary Glencoal has put its plans for an open cast mine on SH2 at Mangatangi on hold indefinitely. The local community is celebrating. They worked very hard with submissions on all the impacts of coal mining that you are allowed to talk about in consent hearings – water, dust, traffic – but not climate change, the worst impact of all. We hear Fonterra was really surprised at the strength of the opposition.

Much of the credit though must go to Auckland Coal Action which has turned out seven times on the last afternoon of holiday weekends to face traffic crawling back to Auckland from Bay of Plenty and Coromandel, with huge placards saying

“Fonterra plans coal mine here”

“Coal Cooks the Climate”

coal cooks the climate

“Fonterra could use Waste Wood”

The mine was planned for such a public site, adjoining SH2 and the protests got some publicity, as did CANA’s opposition at the consents hearing. We brought expert evidence (PDF) to show wood chip from forestry residues was available and technically feasible as a boiler fuel with no net carbon emissions. This is what a win looks like. But….

Solid Energy has just reopened Kopako 1, an old mine around 5km away which still contains a lot of coal, on a back road hardly anyone ever a uses except for mining. It’s part of the same Maramarua coal field. They have a contract with Fonterra to supply more than 100,000 tonnes a year for their Waikato milk drying plants. Fonterra has just sneaked round the corner and passed responsibility for the mining to Solid Energy.

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From the perspective of the atmosphere, nothing has changed. Emissions will continue as planned. But we have shown that Fonterra is susceptible to pressure. All those motorists tooting support for the ACA protests has got to them. They have had to sneak away to a less public site. But it’s not that easy.

Now is the time to keep up the pressure. Fonterra is the third largest coal user in the country by far. With the Huntly power station phasing out they may already be the second largest, after the steel mill. At least 400,000 tonnes a year – we are still working out just how much more than that. This is not compatible with the “clean green image” they like to use to sell their milk overseas.

There is a big opportunity here for Fonterra to position themselves as working towards sustainability by transitioning to wood waste. In fact they told us they were doing that, but are dragging the chain. We intend to keep the pressure on to help them recognise their own self-interest.

The Unequal Battle for the Environment: Update On Mangatawhiri Hearings, 3 September

Jeanette Fitzsimons follows up her earlier report, Second Elephant Needed at Mangatawhiri:

Today there was no elephant, despite the need for two. It just shows how hard it is for unpaid voluntary activists to be there all the time at a hearing like this – an hour’s drive from where most anti-coal people live, during working hours. No-one was available today to be the elephant. Most were preparing to give their submissions.

It was also child care time. Our own Marisa, pregnant with her twins, had her pre-school son there and was diverting him with his own video screen and an apple and frequent trips outside, at the same time as trying to record our submitters and witnesses.

(Here’s a request from Marisa: If you’re on Facebook, please Like the climate elephant!)

Fonterra’s lawyers had no such constraints – on well paid time, transport and meals funded, children, if they have any, being cared for elsewhere. Such is the unequal battle for the environment.

Some interesting issues that arose include: can a financial agreement with an affected person absolve the firm from meeting standards for dust pollution at that person’s home? What about if they sell it? What about people who visit? that issue is flagged to come back on the table for discussion.

There is no baseline data for the state of the environment before the coal mine. They propose to monitor levels of dust and noise but how can we know what is caused by the mine if there is no date from before? They propose to monitor for a month before, to establish such data. This is a nonsense. We need at least a couple of years’ data to see what happens in every weather and season.

All this of course would be unnecessary if we looked a little wider and adopted a renewable fuel technology that leaves the coal in the hole and uses a fuel that is renewable and clean and currently being wasted. That is the substance of CANA’s submission today. The first part is just legal argument that our concerns are relevant. the second part outlines an alternative scenario to avoid the mine.

Our witness John Gifford gave it weight with his experience and knowledge:

We were not prevented from presenting this, but the chair has said he thinks it is not relevant and will give it little or no weight. The legal argument is designed to make him think again about this.

The hearing adjourned at lunchtime and reconvenes again tomorrow at 9am