It’s dismaying to see a few rightwing commentators using the Pike River disaster to attack restrictions on mining in national parks. The claims are baseless and crassly opportunistic. One expects the like of Matthew Hooton, Whaleoil, and Paul Holmes to try to score political points off tragedy but I thought better of Fran O’Sullivan.
It started with Matthew Hooton claiming that the explosion is all the fault of the restrictions that were placed on the mine. See, the coal is under Paparoa National Park, which is protected by Schedule 4, so Pike River weren’t allowed to dig directly down to it. Instead, they were granted special permission to make some minimal constructions in the Park (one end of the ventilation system, etc) and dig a 2km tunnel underneath it from the edge of the Park to the coal.
Hooton says that they should have been allowed to dig down and, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, says that had they been allowed to do so there would have been no disaster. ( if you missed this on Radio Live, Hooton will be making exactly the same claims on Nine to Noon this morning and later this week in the NBR – he’s a spin doctor, repeating bullshit ad nauseum is what he does).
Of course, beneficiary bludger and convicted criminal Cameron Slater was only too keen to jump on the bandwagon. Yup, apparently it’s all the fault of the Department of Conservation who followed the law and didn’t let outsiders come and tear up highly valued conservation estate so they could sell coal overseas.
National Party media trainer Paul Holmes, who never has anything intelligent to say, has chipped in by musing that the mine ought to have been open-cast. Let’s see, Holmes is proposing removing 160m thick of rock across an area probably several square kilometres in size to get at a 7m thick seam of coal. Does that sound like a feasible exercise to you? Pike River didn’t want to do that – it’s logistically and economically impossible. You open cast mine deposits on the surface, for deep ones, you dig small holes to the seam, and then dig it up. Holmes is a twit.
Let’s be clear: DoC and the Minister said ‘you can have the coal if you minimise the damage to the environment and here are our restrictions’. It was up to the company to decide whether it could and would mine safely within those limits, and up to the Department of Labour to ensure satefy standards were met. DoC isn’t in the business of deciding what is and isn’t safe mining, it’s in the business of protecting our natural heritage. And, regardless, opencast mining wasn’t an option.
Slightly more concerning than a PR hack whose a laughingstock because he’s always so transparent, Daddy’s boy Slater, and bumbling old Holmes is O’Sullivan. She usually has the inside running on where National/ACT spin is heading. So it worries me when O’Sullivan asks:
“whether “green mining” can be done in an environment underscored by an old faultline.
And whether mine bosses took their eye off the ball as they “cut and tucked” their project to meet demands of the Department of Conservation and local Maori to put environmental preservation centre-stage.”
And then criticises the following sentence from the Pike River annual report:
“So long as mining is done sensitively the country wins both ways. You get the economic value from the mine and you still maintain the conservation values.”
As if economics should always trump to environment.
The clear inference from all this is that some on the Right want to take advantage of the Pike River disaster and the public’s understandable desire for solutions to attack environmental protections around mining, especially in National Parks.
It would be sickening if, having lost the Schedule 4 debate, the Right now tries to use this tragedy as a backdoor into more, unrestricted mining on our conservation estate. But it looks like that’s exactly the game some of them are playing.