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Mining fallout begins

Written By: - Date published: 10:55 am, February 15th, 2010 - 34 comments
Categories: Conservation, Mining, tourism - Tags:

We market ourselves internationally as “100% pure New Zealand”. That’s a powerful claim and a powerful brand, but also a fragile one. A bubble that is easily popped. Stupidly, the actions of the National government seem likely to damage the brand, and with it the tourism industry, beyond repair.

The first damage was caused by National’s ineffectual Emissions Trading Scheme. English newspaper The Guardian, for example, ran stinging coverage of the ETS in an article titled New Zealand was a friend to Middle Earth, but it’s no friend of the earth (which we covered here) . The piece described National’s policy as (among other things) a “commercial greenwash”.

Now the fallout from the prospect of mining in National Parks begins. As reported by The Greens: “One of North America’s most prominent environmental groups, the Sierra Club, has written a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister describing plans to mine in National Parks as ‘an affront to the international community’ and warning that it could scare off tourists”. The letter states:

While the primary issue is retaining the integrity of New Zealand’s unique wild places, I’m sure you are aware of the attraction these places have for international visitors. … Clearly, any extractive intrusion into the areas that attract international visitors will result in such visitors reconsidering visits to your country if visits your magnificent mountains include vistas that are marred by mining excavations and facilities. On behalf of Sierra Club U.S.A. and Canada as well as the global environmental community, I urge you to remove any National Parks and similar protected areas that meet the standards of IUCN Protected Area Categories I-IV from any consideration for mineral extraction.

According to some estimates, the value of the minerals under our conservation land is about $98 billion. But like flogging of a public asset, it’s a one off boost to income, and it’s not at all clear how much of that potential value would actually remain in and benefit NZ. In contrast tourism is a renewable resource, contributing $18 to $20 billion to the economy each year—9% of New Zealand’s GDP. Its benefits largely remain in NZ, and it is an important source of employment, with one in ten Kiwis working in the industry. On purely economic grounds it is insanity to put all that at risk for the one-off and unknown income from plundering our National Parks. John Key is the Minister of Tourism. It will surely be his most spectacular failure of all if he manages to trigger the collapse of this vital industry…

34 comments on “Mining fallout begins ”

  1. tc 1

    Yet another defining issue for the MP who represent the land as much as they do F&S and a chance to see how able they are to emerge from this not looking like Nat’s lapdog.

    I get the feeling the nat’s are timing all this to overwhelm them as they can only focus on one sellout at a time….ACC/ETS, F&S, mining, Whanau Ora, Akl and other treaty issues, education etc etc

    Clever from the nat’s……simple message to the MP….keep up, pay attention and work harder.

    • Fisiani 1.1

      So there are 82 mines on DOC land currently working away 24/7. No mess no fuss. No rape and pillage. No story. Get a grip on reality. Modern surgical mining cannot be seen from 100 m away. You would struggle to find any evidence of their locations

      [lprent: Provide a link if you want to assert something. Not doing so just makes you look like a fool. ]

      • Armchair Critic 1.1.1

        “So there are 82 mines on DOC land currently working away 24/7”
        Got a source for that? My first reaction was that you had pulled the numbers out of your arse.
        But let’s assume you are right – 82 mines is quite enough, I don’t want any more.

        • Fisiani

          82 mines causing no problems (just go to DOC website) Why do you not want more . Is this just kneejerk unthinking nihilism.?

          [lprent: Read the policy. Comments like this make me think that you’re just trolling. Don’t just assert without providing a link that other people can check. ]

          • Armchair Critic

            Just been to DOC website. Spent abut an hour trying to find a good summary of how many mines there are on DOC land, and how many of them operate 24/7.
            I’ve seen that there are plenty of old mines that are no longer in operation on DOC land.
            And I see that we’ve been given the joyous task of cleaning up after the mining companies have repatriated their profits (mostly back to the UK) and made the land they used so barren that it is no use for anything apart from calling it “conservation estate”, because it can’t be built on or farmed due to poisoned soils. All funded by the taxpayer, i.e. another subsidy to foreign businesses.
            But I can’t see anything about 82 mines that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week on DOC land, like you suggest. So how about a link to the DOC website that proves your point (which will result in an apology from me), or an admission that you are making shit up.
            Underground mining – the surgical mining you refer to – is pretty uncommon these days. With heavy machinery and powerful explosives it is much more economical to strip away the overburden and make a big hole where the minerals were. These stick out like a sore thumb on aerial photos, i.e. can be seen from space. And a lot of mining creates tailings. These require treatment, storage and some serious landscaping. Most definitely visible from space too.
            “kneejerk unthinking nihilism”
            You must stay away from the random jargon generator or you might end up being prime minister. Seriously, I see it as common sense. Setting aside areas because they are wild and untamed is a reasonable thing to do. Changing your mind because there might be minerals underneath it is less reasonable. After all, over 80% of the country is not schedule 4 DOC land, and I have no problem with that 80% being properly mined. My place, for example, has a huge coal deposit under it (according to my 1968 geological map) and I’m happy to sell so it can be extracted. But conservation land is there to be conserved. And mining is not conservation.

            • Mac1

              AC, I’ve been doing the same on the DOC website. Found no evidence for 82 mines, either. Found a 2004 reference to 58 mining concessions -closest I could get.

              Fisiani surely has been making it up. I’m still waiting for him to cough up sources for recent allegations on other posts.

              • Armchair Critic

                Hmmm, looks like the last reply I made disappeared. What’s up with that?
                To summarise – it seems clear that fisiani is making shit up and has no credibility.

                [lprent: don’t know – wasn’t in any of the buckets. ]

  2. Gosman 2

    Sounds like a double bonus for the Greens then. They get another band wagon jumping campaign they can use to promote their brand and those nasty Tourists coming to NZ via those carbon spewing aeroplanes might diminish and therefore mean less of those eco-terrorist flights.

    • r0b 2.1

      You have a valid point. Current forms of air travel are not sustainable, and that is the downside of our tourist trade. Bring back the blimp I say, preferably electric powered, and get used to longer, but more enjoyable flights.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        I’m not sure spending days cooped up in what is essentially a large bus strapped to the bottom of a large balloon will actually be all that enjoyable. You also realise that this sort of change to Air travel will likely mean it returns to the preserve of the Wealthy, as it was before the 1970’s?

        • Bill

          “I’m not sure spending days cooped up in what is essentially a large bus strapped to the bottom of a large balloon will actually be all that enjoyable”

          Absolutely! Days of gazing up Jerry’s arse? Got to be well up there in the top ten list of things to be deemed ‘not all that enjoyable’.

          Not sure about the physics either, but that’s another matter altogether.

      • r0b 2.1.2

        I’d be surprised if we can’t do it better now than we did in the 1930s!

        This is exactly where all countries should be steering their research and their economies. Sustainable Green and high tech Green. Instead of pissing about trying to become yet another banking services drone economy, why isn’t NZ leading the world in becoming a sustainable economy, with sustainable tourism, agriculture, transport and so on? It’s the only way to maintain a tourist trade long term, in fact it’s the only way to survive long term. Where’s the vision?

        • Gosman

          Ummmmmm…… where exactly is this ecologically sustainable vision from any country?

          As far as I can tell there aren’t too many places around the world rushing out to become first adopters in this brave new Green economy you dream of. Everyone talks the big talk obviously but even in the leftist and Greenest parts of the world they are still heavily reliant on current methods.

        • ConorJoe

          Weelll r0b, regarding the blimp. I live in a forestry area and for years I have rather wishfully but enthusiastically anticipated the introduction of cargo blimps to get alot of these one by one log trucks off the scenic highway, away from the cyclists, out of the suburban and central city. They wreck the tarseal and then the substructure. They overturn, swing wide around corners But this is not a rail at cowboy truck drivers. Get the logs in the air, even tug the airborne loads around the coast over the water to get to the port. Oh, and then there’s the reduction in emissions but thats kinda just becoming second nature when planning ahead in this new econovironment innit?
          make it so.
          hah! captcha – alone
          just what I was thinkin you isn’t with all your blimpy ways

    • Lanthanide 2.2

      Alternatively, tourists coming from overseas may go back to their own country with a greater respect for the environment and commit to lessening their footprint.

  3. felix 3

    Brownlee has been spinning a lot of greenwash lately about rare earth elements.

    I sense a huge amount of bullshit but I don’t know enough about them. Can anyone with relevant expertise fill me in?

    What rare earth elements are we talking about?
    What are they used for?
    Is Brownlee correct to imply that these elements are primarily used for building wind turbines and catalytic converters or are they just as likely to be used to build flame-throwers and baby-crushers?

    • r0b 3.1

      felix – some background in the links from this post

      Peak metals

    • Lanthanide 3.2

      Rare earth elements are Lanthanides, actually 🙂

      In actuality for the most part they’re really not “that rare”. The name comes from a time when they were little understood and uncommon in the western world. China has some of the largest rare earth deposits in the world and control >90% of supply for many of the elements.

      Rare earth elements are frequently used in exotic alloys and compounds that have novel applications and often used in hi-tech manufacture, such as lasers, electromagnets, electric car motors, solar panels and even the humble cathode ray tube (teevee). Often only very minute amounts are required in each product, so the upside of mining for rare earths in NZ is that if the ores are of sufficiently high quality and concentration to mine them, you normally would not see strip mining taking place.

  4. prism 4

    The way Brownlee talks you’d think that the mining companies were going to perform keyhole surgery. If stuff is rare, then isn’t it likely to be found only after much crushing or tunnelling? That spoil then starts leaching of odd minerals that change the ph balance of ground and water if it is not out and out toxic.

  5. tc 5

    OK be afraid kids….if the fatman is blahing on about rare earth minerals then they more than likely know exactly where they are and as such redrawn boudaries reflect that maybe.

    Scary stuff as these kind of minerals represent some of the most invasive and nastiest processes to extract……ask the Siberians how much fun that Palladium plant is.

    • r0b 5.1

      Or ask Canada how it’s working out for them…

      O Canada

      • Lanthanide 5.1.1

        Actually not too badly:

        Of course, this sort of environmental cleanup costs $$$, which oil-sands can provide when forced to by the government. Clearly not the same situation here.

        • r0b

          It’s nice that they made it (a few chosen locations?) look pretty. How did they go cleaning up the toxins that got in to the water tables, and curing the subsequent cancers and auto-immune disorders?

          • Lanthanide

            That is the first area that has been signed off by the government. I believe there are many hundred hectares that look similar to the example given, but have not yet received sign-off from the government.

            The government’s standards are strict, so I believe the mining companies need to prove that they haven’t affected the water tables, and if they have, do everything required to revert the damage (which could quickly become a bottomless pit). Having such regulation ensures that the companies minimise environmental damage during production, because they know they will be forced to clean it up later. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all that.

            However you would need to do further reading on this subject to see just how strict the government’s position is, and whether the mining companies can get let off the hook for doing permanent damage – I have not looked into it.

            The point of the linked article is to show that it really isn’t impossible (as many like to imagine) to revitalise the landscape to it’s prior condition (minus the hillside, of course) given enough money, time and incentive to do so.

            • r0b

              Having such regulation ensures that the companies minimise environmental damage during production, because they know they will be forced to clean it up later.

              In theory yes, in practice please see the Canada experience linked above.

              minus the hillside, of course

              Of course.

              • Akldnut

                They would have to have some pretty stiff penalties in place and ways to enforce them.
                Look at all the construction companies that went belly up and can’t be penalised after the leaky home saga (I know they were small fry compared to mining companies) or the banks that are partiying it up with our share of 2 billion $$$ worth of tax.

                Point is – we can be raped without any comeback, and they’d get away with it if they could.

  6. gobsmacked 6

    As I mentioned on the other thread, Brownlee’s line this morning was that mines attract “tens of thousands” of tourists. His words.

    It was a gaffe-gift to the Greens and Labour, but they’re a bit slow off the mark in picking it up (National were better at the opposition game, I’m afraid – you simply have to write the story for the journos, and give it to them. That’s what the likes of McVickar and McCroskie do, and their crap goes to air verbatim).

    Story: Gerry thinks National Park mines are 100% pure gold for tourists. Go.

  7. outofbed 7

    Well I was out collecting signatures for the anti Mining petition at the weekend
    And believe me people are pissed off, got 5 pages in an hour I am told this pattern is being repeated around the country
    If you want to help it can be downloaded here http://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/Mining_petition_web.pdf
    Downland sheet filled in and send it to the address on the form no stamp required

  8. prism 8

    I’ve been reading a novel called A Grue of Ice by Geoffrey Jenkins. A metallurgist knows he is one of the few people on the planet to understand a rare metal caesium. He is so obssessed that he will do anything to get control of a source only he knows. Great story about the Antarctic, fictional but with factual mixed in.
    Brownlee seems a bit obssessed too. I wonder what rare metals the gummint have been informed about? I looked up caesium on Wikipedia and interestingly one place that provides supplies is Zimbabwe. It is one of the mainstays of their Beloved Leader I suppose. Perhaps we can rise up the table of advanced nations like them!
    Caesium can be separated out from the base rock in three ways but the most usual is with acids – “hydrochloric (HCl), sulfuric (H2SO4), hydrobromic (HBr), or hydrofluoric (HF) acids.” Plenty of scope for serious pollution there, I think acid is used with gold too isn’t it and probably for most other rare metals too.

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