The numbers on mining don’t stack up

Written By: - Date published: 9:22 am, March 24th, 2010 - 23 comments
Categories: Economy, jobs, Mining - Tags:

There’s a hell of a lot of mis-information and confusing numbers about the economic potential of mining around, and that suits Gerry Brownlee and National because it lets them exaggerate the case for opening up the National Parks.

John Armstrong says “Unfortunately for National, cool economic logic has a hard job competing with emotions stirred up by warnings of endangered kauri forests, dead kiwis and mud slides.” But the reality is the numbers aren’t as great as they would have you think. Even putting the environmental concerns to one side, the economic benefits just aren’t that flash.

Let’s have a closer look:

$194 billion: The supposed total value of all the minerals in New Zealand excluding coal, oil, and gas. Mostly, this is silica, ironsand, clay, feldspar, and other stuff of low value that is spread throughout the country in large quantities. This $194 billion figure (which is about one year’s GDP) comes from one man, Richard Baker, who just so happens to be a member of a couple of mining lobby groups. We could never dig it all up, that would be strip-mining the country – like tearing down your house to sell the scrap for a year’s income – and much of it would be uneconomic to extract anyway.

$80 billion: The value of the minerals Baker says are in the conservation estate. This is the amount in the total conservation estate, not the smaller area that is protected from mining by Schedule 4. Again, it’s mainly low-value, bulky stuff that wouldn’t be economical for the most part (after all, most of it is in areas where mining permits can be sought). A lot of it is dirty coal.

$60 billion: The potential value of the minerals on conservation land that Baker says could be economically extracted. This is not the amount that is in Schedule 4 land, and certainly not the amount in the areas of Schedule 4 land the Government wants to open to mining (which is why I cringed when I saw Guyon Espiner had written “Brownlee estimates that there could be as much as $60 billion worth of minerals in the tiny amount of turf to be prospected.” Just keeping up the Espiner tradition, I guess).

$54 billion: The supposed mineral wealth in the Coromandel. Remember that is a total, not the amount that is economically accessible or the amount in the areas of Schedule 4 land the Nats want to open up. Denis Tegg of Coromandel Watchdog tells me that amount equates to 500 underground mines or 27 more Waihi-style open-cast mines.

$18 billion: the estimated value of the minerals in the areas of Schedule 4 land the government wants to open up. That’s three years of current mining production, hardly enough to make a significant impact on the economy when extracted over several decades.

$6.8 billion: revenue of the mining industry (including oil and gas) in 2008. It paid just $500 million in wages and salaries and only $70 million in royalties. Even if it doubled in size, mining would be an insignificant contributor to government revenue and the country’s wages. Mining companies made a $2 billion pre-tax profit in 2008, most of the big miners are foreign-owned and exported their profits.*

$4 billion: The amount being bandied about as the value of gold and silver deposits in the area on Great Barrier Island the Government is threatening to remove from Schedule 4. I don’t know where this number comes from but the geological report accompanying the minerals stocktake puts the figure at only $1 billion.

$1-$2 billion: The possible value of the dirty coal under the 8% of Paparoa National Park that National wants to open to mining. This coal could be used to power coal power plants. We’re meant to be stopping using coal at Huntly because of its contribution to climate change, the ETS is meant to price coal out of electricity generation. Maybe National wants to export the coal for someone else to burn.

A few tens of millions: The value of aggregate identified in the Ecological Areas near Whangamata that National wants to allow mining of, according to the geological report. That report didn’t have access to the latest data from mineral prospecting company Glass Earth, which makes me think they and National know something no-one else does.

40 million: the number of tonnes of tailings left by the Waihi gold/silver mine so far.

24 million: tonnes of carbon dioxide that would be emitted by burning the 16 million tonnes of coal in the are of Paparoa National Park. That’s $30 million worth of carbon credits even with the low cap set by the ETS.

23 million: the area in hectares of New Zealand not covered by Schedule 4.

6,100: the number of people employed in the mining sector currently on a median wage of $57,700. Mining companies made an average pre-tax profit of $386,800 in 2008.

140: grammes of silver and 3.6 grammes of gold per tonne in the main seam on Great Barrier. 4.1 million tonnes of earth would need to be dug up and treated in cyanide then decontaminated and dumped to get the 600 tonnes of valuable metals.

82: mining concessions currently on the conservation estate. None of which are on Schedule 4 land.

5: years before any mine would start producing. By that time Treasury expects the budget deficit will be all but gone, so the argument that we need mining to pay for public services is wrong. And it’s doubly wrong when you consider the small income the government would get from this mining.

less than 2%: Mining’s contribution to GDP. Even if the mining industry were somehow doubled (and it couldn’t get near that on current plans) it would be an insignificant increase to GDP and government revenue. Remember, this is the Government’s one big economic idea.

Less than 1%: The royalty the government gets for letting foreign companies dig up and take away our minerals on our land.

Zero: the likelihood of mining on Great Barrier. It’s classic bait and switch. Aucklanders get all upset about Great Barrier. The government ‘listens’ and decides to let foreign companies dig up more of our wealth for themselves in places like Stewart Island and Kahurangi instead.

Mehdunno: the Government’s estimate of the economic value to New Zealand of the proposed mining. Remember more mining is the government’s one big plan for the economy but they can’t even give a ballpark figure on how much they expect the country to gain.

23 comments on “The numbers on mining don’t stack up”

  1. freedom 1

    1,053,398 : the number of idiots we have to thank for this long-drop of a situation

  2. Lanthanide 2

    Excellent summary. Pity we can’t just get this post printed verbatim in a national paper where ordinary, everyday folk would see it.

    • freedom 2.1

      post it to every social networking site you know of
      print off copies and distribute them
      send every contact on your email list the link
      get creative and share information
      BECAUSE THE MEDIA WILL NOT DO IT FOR US

  3. freedom 3

    and do not forget to make a submission
    http://www.med.govt.nz/templates/xform____42557.aspx

  4. RascallyRabbit 4

    MED figures provided for the Business Herald reveal that petroleum was a nice little earner for the Government in the 2008/2009 financial year.

    The Crown received approximately $965 million from the petroleum sector that year: $543 million in royalty payments; the balance in taxes

    Who knows who to believe?!

    Our future as oil Sheikhs…

    • Clarke 4.1

      Leaving aside the fact that the royalty rates for oil charged by NZ are amongst the lowest in the world (as demonstrated by the Herald’s numbers), and that all the petroleum ventures in the country are majority controlled by overseas prospectors which are exporting their profits, the simple fact is that no-one is suggesting there is any oil or gas to be had in the Schedule 4 lands.

      Which means even if the oil sector in NZ was being managed for the benefit of NZ rather than the multinational exploration companies. Brownlees’ escapades would not see a single additional barrel of oil brought to market.

    • Bright Red 4.2

      we’re not talking about petroleum here. we’re talking about mining

      • RascallyRabbit 4.2.1

        $6.8 billion: revenue of the mining industry (including oil and gas)in 2008. It paid just $500 million in wages and salaries and only $70 million in royalties.

        I am just saying that the whole conversation is confusing does the mining/mineral extraction debate include oil and gas? Does it include potentially mining on non-schedule 4 lands? What calendar years or financial years are going to be used as a base of comparison for debate?

        There are so many questions and different numbers floating around that I think it would be good to get some f’n clarity from our political elites…

        • Clarke 4.2.1.1

          The reason the oil and gas sectors are lumped in with the rest of the mining sector is that the vast majority of the royalties come from oil and gas …. the rest of the mining industry pays paltry amounts of money. As Marty points out, the total royalty take from non-petroleum mining is about $70 million – so even if mining the Schedule 4 land doubled the royalties received, we’re still only talking about 1.4 Party Central’s worth of revenue into government coffers.

          In my view, the reason Brownlee has included the petroleum royalties is to artificially pump up the figures and make the effect on the government’s books of mining peat in the Coromandel and shingle in the Parakawai look greater than they really are.

        • Pascal's bookie 4.2.1.2

          “There are so many questions and different numbers floating around that I think it would be good to get some f’n clarity from our political elites ”

          Well quite. But I’d say that ‘the elites’ is too broad a phrase here. It’s Gerry’s baby, and his numbers are all over the place. That is deliberate on his part.

          That’s the only verifiable fact about the numbers that I can make out.

  5. BLiP 5

    After listening to Nick The Prick Smith with his ACC figures and then Blinglish with his economic figures, any financial data that comes out of National Ltdâ„¢ has to be double/triple checked.

    Take Gerry Browncoal’s talking point that the area of land to be opened for mining was equivalent to a postcard on Eden Park – that ratio was trashed on tele last night when some math whizz crunched the figures to show that, in fact, Browncoal was waaaay out – the true image would be more than 100 post cards. Then we have the question: of the billions apparently available, just how much will actually be returned to New Zealand? Under current agreements, the Crown’s royalty payments amount to around 5 per cent. This leads on to the question: well, if the Crown gets a couple of hundred million out of trashing the conservation estate, what happens to the money? Is it spent on paying down debt or is it consolidated into a Crown fund for further investment, or . . .

    Just like one of John Key’s financial derivatives, this whole thing is dodgy from top to bottom.

    • Clarke 5.1

      It’s pretty much a truism that National governments never save for a rainy day. Practically the first act of Muldoon was to destroy the superannuation fund put in place by the preceding Labour government; thirty years later, English cut off contributions to the current superannuation fund as one of his first acts on getting his feet under the desk.

      So based on their track record over a couple of generations, there is absolutely zero chance that any royalties will be accrued for future generations by this government.

  6. Jim Nald 7

    John Key’s Govt: 100% Pure BS ???

  7. tc 8

    The numbers only stack up if the orebody is sizeable (no evidence of that) and it’s of a desireable mineral in global demand such as rare earth elements like taxcutium or cyclewaydium maybe (again no evidence) and it’s accessible for the creation of infrastructure that it’ll need.

    So many ‘if’s’ and little truth emerging from the gov’t which’s becoming standard MO under sideshow john……the sad thing is the way this’s playing out any viable proposition for a mine (right mineral/location) will likely get lost because of this hamfisted deliberately misleading approach they’re taking so NZ lose again.

    Honesty always the best policy with such a divisive issue with long term outcomes….like that’s ever gonna happen in sideshow’s corpratocracy.

  8. Fisiani 9

    [lprent: you’re not out of your ban until the 31st. Don’t try to comment here before then, it wastes my time. ]

  9. Bored 10

    OK, so the numbers dont stack up….but for NZers to dream of and aspire to a quick fix must suit Jonkey in the polls. He doesnt have to deliver the money jobs etc, feel good on a promise equals votes.

  10. ghostwhowalksnz 11

    Great list showing the real figures.
    However there is one point The Pikes Cr Coal mine under Paparoa National Park , the coal wouldn’t be used for energy production, its used for steel making . The cost and high grade mean that its not suitable as ‘steaming’ coal.
    Incidentally , this Pikes Cr mine is mentioned as how they can do a minimal impact mine. When you remember the troubles they went through, nobody would do it this way again

    • lprent 11.1

      Correct. It is a coal extracted for steel making rather than energy production (it burns rather hot..)

      If I remember the process correctly, the coal is coked first to remove the impurities before being added to the iron. There is a moderate emission profile from that, but no real biggie compared to the value added.

      The value, use, and relative scarcity of this type of coal worldwide is why this mine got its permissions. The difficulties that they had were what any company doing a first time usage of a process tends to get. Second time the parameters are better known and understood, so it is easier.

      This is the same reason that Microsoft is always second or later into a market. Their attitude is that someone else should carry the learning curve…

  11. Alan Liefting 12

    Note that contrary to what is suggested in the article there is no change to access for mining in Kahurangi National Park. This is according to the stocktake document up for discussion, but since there significant mineral wealth in the park it may be up for grabs in the future – if National remain in power! Kahurangi may be left out because of the high level of biodiversity in the park

    On the other hand there are plans for further investigation of Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island.

    Good article. It seems that the mining/ petroleum industry always has an unbounded optimism. Apparently only 20% of the oil wells sunk in NZ are productive.

    • peterthepeasant 12.1

      Only 20%? Tut tut.

      Perhaps we should have National Standards applied to mining companies?

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    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • Government says it will now build just one really nice home
    Following publication of this article, the Ministry has requested it to be noted that this supplied image is not necessarily representative of what the final house will look like, and it “probably won’t be that nice.” As part of today’s long-anticipated reset of the Government’s flagship KiwiBuild policy, Housing Minister ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Imperialism and your cup of coffee
    Over the next week or two we will be running three synopses of parts of the opening chapter of John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st Century (New York, Monthly Review Press, 2016).  The synopsis and commentary below is written by Phil Duncan. Marx began Capital not with a sweeping historical ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Still juking the stats
    The State Services Commission and Ombudsman have released another batch of OIA statistics, covering the last six months. Request volumes are up, and the core public service is generally handling them within the legal timeframe, though this may be because they've learned to extend rather than just ignore things. And ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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