From your inner-spring mattress to your car (or even your bike), computer, cellphone and medical equipment; the activities that make up our day and enhance our lives are in most cases only possible because someone, somewhere, has mined something.
We’re not against all mining everywhere. And, last time I checked, my bed springs weren’t made from coal or gold.
Mining is an emotive issue and it’s important we have a mature and considered debate. That debate should include a discussion about the economic benefits.
Fine. We all support having information on the table eh? So, how much will mining on these areas contribute to the economy, Gerry?
Mining in 2008 was a $2 billion industry and contributed $1.1 billion to exports. Including oil and gas, the mining industry employs around 6000 people – and those jobs are highly productive and highly paid, relative to other sectors of the economy.
So mining is just over 1% of GDP but provides less than 0.3% of employment and (Brownlee doesn’t mention this) only 0.6% of wages. Yes, miners are well paid – they are fully-unionised – but workers get a relatively small cut of the fruits of mining. And you still haven’t answered the question: how much will mining on these areas contribute to the economy, Gerry?
Mining is an important part of regional economies such as the West Coast and the Coromandel.
And we’re not talking about closing down existing or preventing mining on the vast majority of New Zealand which is outside the protection of Schedule 4. How much will mining on these areas contribute to the economy, Gerry?
But the economic return on that land is many times greater than any sheep, beef or dairy farm.
We’re not talking about mining sheep farms. We’re talking about mining conservation areas that have been specifically set aside not to be mined. How much will mining on these areas contribute to the economy, Gerry?
It’s worth noting that mining already takes place on conservation land in New Zealand. There are 82 mines operating on conservation land and 118 permits for mining are at present active over conservation land.
Yup. Because this issue isn’t about all mining. It’s about mining on land that was specifically set aside to not be mined upon because of its natural value.
The average ownership structure of resources companies listed on the NZX is 57 per cent New Zealand and 43 per cent overseas ownership.
That average is unweighted. The small companies are mostly NZ-owned. The big ones, that do the actual mining, are foreign-owned with the exception of Solid Energy.
Mines in New Zealand are subject to strict environmental tests. The higher the conservation value of the land concerned, the stricter the test. That fact will rule out open-cast mines on Schedule Four land.
But open-cast is exactly what Solid Energy wants to do in Paparoa. Open-cast is how rare earths are mined and it’s the only economical way to mine low density deposits of gold and silver. Even with an underground mine, gold and silver still leaves millions of tonnes of contaminated tailings. And coal contributes to climate change.
Some have also argued that mining puts New Zealand’s clean and green image at risk and that tourism may be affected. But the Government is proposing only a small increase in mining activity for quite large economic gain.
What will that economic gain be, Gerry? And what will the cost to tourism be? Oh, right. You don’t have numbers for either of these crucial questions. In fact, you haven’t even bothered to try to find out.
Tourism numbers rose between 2000 and 2008 while the mining sector grew and mining permits were issued for conservation land.
Not on Schedule 4 land.
The Government believes a small increase in responsible mining could contribute to our goal of improving the economy’s performance and providing high-value jobs.
How much would it contribute to that so far not even remotely achieved goal? Oh, right, you have no idea.
The Government is trying to frame this as a debate between ’emotional’ environmentalists and ‘sensible’ people who want to build the economy. The reality, however, is that the Government has supplied no economic argument for allowing mining in these areas. It doesn’t know what is there. It doesn’t know the economics of extracting it. It doesn’t know what benefits would flow to New Zealand. It doesn’t know what costs we would bear in terms of environmental damage and lost tourism.
How are we meant to rationally weigh the costs and benefits of mining on protected land when the government has no clue what they are?
This is not an economic argument. It is dig and pray.