Category Archives: coal industry

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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Don’t Take Our Word For How Bad Mokau South Is – Take Waikato Regional Council’s Word. And Submit By Next Tuesday.

Submissions on Mokau South’ Resources’ proposal to strip-mine the Panirau Plateau in the Mokau River Catchment for coal close next Tuesday, 2 February. We have had a good response to our call for submissions against the project, but we’d love to see even more.

  • Already know you want to help? Find out how in our Mokau South submission guide (Word | PDF)

Some people have said they don’t have time to make a long submission – and that’s fair enough, as we know how busy people are! Your submission doesn’t have to be long, but we think its is important to meet the formal requirements laid out in the submission guide. And here’s why.

Climate Change, the RMA, and Grounds for Submissions

The applicant, Mokau South Resources, was unhappy at the idea that their resource consent application might be publicly notified. They asked why this was being done, and Waikato Regional Council’s scanned response is very revealing of both the scale of the project and the applicants’ attitude:

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So there we have it: the project is massive, in an environmentally sensitive area, in a river catchment with high annual rainfall, and the applicants want to avoid a fight on climate change grounds!

Unfortunately, on this last point, the Resource Management Act as it is currently worded is with the applicant: it explicitly excludes consideration of the effects of a project on climate change. A movement is underway to put climate change back in the RMA, but in the meantime, a submission that only mentions climate change can be “struck out for disclosing no relevant case”. That’s appalling, but it’s the law.

(However, some arguments related to climate change can still be made – our submission guide explains how to do that.)

So that’s why we encourage submitters to put in a submission that can’t be struck out, because it refers to the many, many other environmental and economic grounds on which the project is a bad idea. Our submission guide (Word | PDF) provides you with plenty of talking points. Pick one or pick just a few, and make your submission as brief as you like: but please do submit. And once you’ve included grounds that ensure your submission can’t be struck out, we encourage you to state clearly which this project is a terrible idea on climate change grounds.

Mordor on the Mokau

Finally, this Radio New Zealand story provides more information about the applicants and their proposal. It makes them sound like a couple of dear old duffers pursuing their lifelong dream. It’s just a pity that their lifelong dream involves ruining an important natural environment and trashing the world’s climate.

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The Coal Industry Wants To Strip Mine The Mokau. Help Us Stop Them.

  • Already know you want to help? Find out how in our Mokau South submission guide (Word | PDF)

As NASA has confirmed, 2015 was the hottest year on record. So the idea of starting any new coal mine represents a dangerous disconnection with reality. But sometimes, we come across a proposal that has that whole extra level of insanity.

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Many years ago, before the Resource Management Act came into force, Mokau South Resources was granted a mining licence for an area of regenerating native bush on the Panirau Plateau near the Panirau Stream, a tributary of the Mokau River on the North Taranaki Coast. Their current permit expires in 2016.

So now, despite the state of the coal market and the imperative need not to increase greenhouse gas emissions, Mokau South Resources has applied to Waikato Regional Council for resource consent to strip mine a large area near the Panirau Stream. That’s a terrible idea on climate change grounds. It’s also a terrible idea for the natural environment in North Taranaki and the Waikato.

Coal companies around the world are crashing. China’s coal use has declined and the Chinese Government has banned new coal mines. And the Paris Agreement has signalled the end of the fossil fuel era. But here in New Zealand, while the Government tips them a nod and a wink, the coal industry keeps trying to dig up more of the stuff. They must be stopped.

How To Submit

Submissions on this project close on Tuesday 2 February – so you don’t have long. Working with Waikato Climate Action, we’ve prepared a submission guide (Word | PDF) with many different reasons for objecting to this proposal, and we’d like as many people as possible to submit. You’ll find all the details of how to submit in the guide. You can also read the official Waikato Regional Council information on this application.

Let’s send Waikato Regional Council and the coal industry an unambiguous message: no more new coal mines, no more increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and no more destruction of our natural habitat for the sake of private profit.

  • Get started on your Mokau South submission now with our downloadable submission guide (Word | PDF)

 

One Woman Stood Up To Fonterra. Now You Can Follow Her Example.

Selva J. Calvi stands up to Fonterra in Whangarei

Selva J. Calvo stands up to Fonterra in Whangarei

This is Selva. Along with nearly 3000 other New Zealanders, she is concerned that while the coal industry is in retreat around the world, here in New Zealand Fonterra is rapidly expanding its use of coal and propping up some of the nation’s most destructive coal companies, like Bathurst Resources, by doing so.

So Selva did something. She went to the venue of a Fonterra shareholders’ meeting and made a public stand against Fonterra’s coal-fired expansion plans – plans that, if carried out, will make climate change worse and more destructive.

We salute Selva and others who took a stand against Fonterra at their nationwide series of shareholders’ meetings last week. But you can take a stand against Fonterra too – and you don’t have to get out in public to do so.

All you have to do is tell Environment Canterbury you don’t want Fonterra to build two dirty new coal boilers at its Studholme plant in South Canterbury, when they could be installing wood-fired boilers instead, using waste wood from forestry operations.

You can make a quick submission using this form. Make sure you say you are opposed to all 8 resource consent applications – they are all part of the same plan.

And if you need more information, check out our Quick Submission Guide (Word |PDF), where you’ll find plenty of great arguments to use.

PS: Submissions close on Friday 27 November at 5pm – don’t wait till it’s too late!

 

 

The 2015 Revised Edition of Jobs After Coal: More Timely Than Ever

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The 2015 revised edition of CANA’s report Jobs After Coal: A Just Transition for New Zealand Communities was released on the 2nd of May, in conjunction with a speech CANA organising group member Jeanette Fitzsimons gave at the May Day celebrations in Blackball.

You can download and read:

Since May 2014, when we released the original edition of this report, world coal prices have continued to drop, and in New Zealand, coal mining companies have continued to lay off workers without the slightest concern or provision for the communities they live in. This was underlined just five days after the 2015 version was released, when Solid Energy announced it was getting rid of 151 more positions at its Stockton mine.

While the mining companies and the Government offer nothing, CANA’s report addresses how communities and workers can prepare for the end of coal mining, and lays out pathways that communities and regions can follow to move away from coal and into low-carbon jobs. Continue reading

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.

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