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XR protestors have stopped operations at a Southland coal mine

Written By: - Date published: 2:15 pm, May 2nd, 2022 - 60 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, Mining - Tags: , ,

Since yesterday MSM have been reporting that sea level rise is going to affect New Zealand much faster than previously thought (serious problems for coastal cities by 2040). The implications are particularly for councils and developers and the message is clear: we need to act urgently to mitigate climate change as well as change our plans for adaptation.

In a piece of brilliant timing, this morning XR Aotearora NZ activists have occupied Bathurst Resources’ Tākitimu mine in Southland.

From XR’s press release,

“We have peacefully shut down this mine because the government and local councils don’t have the courage to put an end to coal mining in Aotearoa. We are being betrayed by Fonterra and Bathurst, who are determined to nudge us deeper into the climate crisis no matter the cost,” says Extinction Rebellion (XR) spokesperson Erik Kennedy.

Fonterra uses the vast majority of coal mined at Takitimu to dehydrate milk for export at their Clandeboye factory. The coal mined at Takitimu during the last (financial) year was equivalent to the emissions of driving a new car the length of Aotearoa 1.5 million times. (209,000 Tonnes of sub-bituminous coal would emit 383,000 T of CO2 when burnt.) Bathurst Resources are also poised to mine the ecologically fragile Denniston and Buller Plateaus on the West Coast.

“The government declared a climate emergency in 2020 – when are they going to step in to close coal mines? When will the government promise coal workers the option of good clean jobs instead?”

Otago Daily Times coverage including that Bathurst have been given permission by the Southland District Council to expand the mine, which involves removing forestry currently own by SDC. Forest and Bird have sought a judicial review of this decision.

What Labour should be doing: phasing out coal and helping the communities affected to find other ways of making a living that are sustainable and resilient for those communities.

This fifty minute FB livestream from earlier is of the protestors talking about the situation and what they are doing

 

Live updates on XR twitter and Facebook.

Donations to XR for the cost of today’s action can be made here.

60 comments on “XR protestors have stopped operations at a Southland coal mine ”

  1. roy cartland 1

    +100

    Incidentally, RNZ ran that story about sea level rises this morning; the following story being about the border-reopenings hence all the flights expected.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    One arrest so far: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/466277/activist-arrested-at-takitimu-coal-mine-protesters-say

    Protest spokesperson Erik Kennedy said they were taking action because the mine's owner Bathurst Resources was planning an extension into a nearby council-owned forestry block and they believed local and central government were not doing enough to stop coal mining in Aotearoa.

    But they are mining coal sustainably, they claim:

    As New Zealand’s largest specialist coal company we are committed to sustainable development, where economic growth coincides with respect for conservation and community values. https://bathurst.co.nz/

    Takitimu contains one of the few remaining pockets of sub-bituminous coal in the region, where coal has been produced for over 140 years.

    We’re currently mining the Black Diamond block, an extension of the original Takitimu mine. Our operations underpin the local economy, providing jobs and supplying energy to local schools, hospitals, food businesses and dairy processing plants.

    The nearby New Brighton exploration permit is in close proximity to the Takitimu mine and is connected by the same railway line. This location has the potential to unlock more high-grade sub-bituminous coal and extend our Southland operations.

    https://bathurst.co.nz/our-operations/takitimu/

    • Dennis Frank 2.1

      Somewhat ambivalent stance here: https://teara.govt.nz/en/coal-and-coal-mining/page-9

      “In 2019 coal contributed about 6% of New Zealand‘s primary energy supply, mainly for steel making, food processing and a decreasing amount of electricity generation. It seems likely these proportions will increase. At times of low hydro and wind generation, non-renewable sources are used to help meet the gap between supply and demand. Both coal and gas have been used in recent years, but reduced gas supply has seen increasing use of coal-fired generation, mainly from imported coal.”

    • Dennis Frank 2.2

      Looks like they do make an effort to be authentic: https://bathurst.co.nz/our-commitment/supporting-our-environment/

      There's a link to their environmental policy on that page. I had a look & their CEO has signed it. So I guess the XR folk are doing the fundamentalist stance: any coal mined is onsold to burn, boosting global warming. Doesn't matter how you dress it up, mining coal is bad business practice. Capitalists reluctant to accept the new reality.

    • weka 2.3

      As New Zealand’s largest specialist coal company we are committed to sustainable development, where economic growth coincides with respect for conservation and community values.

      Don't know why you posted that Denis, it's plainly neoliberal, anti-ecology, death cult nonsense.

      • Dennis Frank 2.3.1

        Thought it vaguely amusing. One could frame it as greenwash – although I don't mean to imply I disagree with your view. Problem is, in politics one must cater for varying bodies of opinion – and I learnt from experience that the best way to achieve consensus is to hear the views of others with an open mind.

        So I included it on the know your enemy basis. Be aware of how they are managing public opinion. That way, if hostile locals show up at the protest to deal with those who are trying to eliminate their jobs, some kind of credible explanation may be possible on an informed basis. Does that make sense?

        I mean, I expected to confirm that it was an aussie invader – but the website had no such confirmation that I could find. If it is fully kiwi and the chosen name is coincidental (seems unlikely) then perhaps they are trying to do the right thing and are merely clueless rather than evil?

        • weka 2.3.1.1

          It does make sense, and would have worked more if you'd given some context as to why you were sharing it I think.

          Clueless or evil? I think willful ignorance is most likely but doesn't preclude 'don't actually care if we burn the planet'.

  3. Pataua4life 3

    Great

    Lets stop local mining so we can import more coal.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/the-detail/story/2018806164/why-new-zealand-is-importing-coal-by-the-shipload

    Maybe they should have this protest in Wellington or outside an electorate office in Pt Chev.

    What a bunch of twits

    • weka 3.1

      we don't need to burn coal to keep the lights on. Most of the coal from the Takitimu mine isn't being used for that anyway. What you are on about.

      Your own link,

      “The problem for environmental advocates is, yes, coal right now may be needed – and they would reluctantly admit that – to keep the lights on. So coal is a necessary evil in this situation. But for environmental advocates this represents a massive failure in infrastructure planning by successive governments for the last 20 years.”

      Either you believe the climate crisis is real or you don't. If it's the former, then there's not really any argument to be made in favour of coal given the IPCC report last month. If it's the latter, then stay out of my posts.

    • lprent 3.2

      About a third of the coal NZ imports is used at the Glenbrook Steel Mill south of Auckland, and at Golden Bay Cement in Whangārei.

      The rest is burned at the Huntly Power Station for electricity. There is also domestically produced coal which is used in a variety of small and larger scale operations, but most of it is not a suitable grade or quality for Huntly to use, so it imports.

      There has been a reduction in domestic coal production over the past 20 years, but production has been stable over the past five years, during a time imports have skyrocketed.

      NZ importing record amount of coal to power homes and businesses

      Of those in recent years the vast majority of the imported coal is burnt in Huntley. That is mostly because the amount of coal produced from the Huntley coal field has been declining. Huntley is also slowly shutting down as we (painfully slowly) have our risk adverse private power industry increase capacity.

      The simplest way to speed that up is to just shut Tiwai Point and stop having the Meridian caving into the rapacious idiots who run it.

      //——–

      However that is a separate problem to our locally produced coal in Otago/Southland. The coal there is almost entirely used in small industrial units, almost entirely in the production of dehydrated milk powder.

      It is also the only region that is increasing coal production capacity. That is because the logical alternative – phasing in electric drying is on hold because of high power prices – because the southern region is held in thrall by Tiwai.

      Maybe they should have this protest in Wellington or outside an electorate office in Pt Chev.

      So the appropriate place to protest is in Otago/Southland. That is where we have a coal addiction problem, and a parasitic smelter that is preventing a switch over to a more productive use of a high proportion of our power.

  4. infused 4

    Better stop all that imported coal then.

    • weka 4.1

      good idea.

      • Poission 4.1.1

        bad idea as we are one short circuit from brownouts.

        https://nzgb.redspider.co.nz/

        • weka 4.1.1.1

          imagine the brownouts once climate events really kick in.

          • Poission 4.1.1.1.1

            and what events are those?

            • weka 4.1.1.1.1.1

              If the works doesn’t act to drop GHGs fast, we will come to a point of hundred year floods yearly (ref the sea level rise report just out). Some of those weather events will take out power supply causing actual power cuts like we have now but way more often.

              worse, we won’t have the resources (time, money, materials, possibly labour), to keep up with repairs to key infrastructure, because there will be too many events to keep up with. With every year a hundred year flood, there will be many other challenges (storms, sea surging, winds, snow).

    • lprent 4.2

      And close the smelter at Tiwai point.

  5. Ad 5

    More pressure on Fonterra to invest in dryers with non-coal heat the better.

    Though presumably if there’s no more coal coming out of Nightcaps it’s another rail line to be scrapped?

    • weka 5.1

      what would they run those with? We're hitting the limits of growth.

    • lprent 5.2

      We simply don't have the gas capacity or electricity power to switch them off coal.

      Tiwai closure and using the power in the grid rather than some stupid exporting data centre would provide a stop gap capacity.

      • Ad 5.2.1

        Fonterra's Studholm has the wood pellet alternatives.

        Wood-fired boiler for Fonterra at Studholme | Otago Daily Times Online News (odt.co.nz)

        Fonterra have been dragging on this. But it needs a key customer to come out saying: no more Coal-Milk deliveries thanks.

        • lprent 5.2.1.1

          Sure. But the reality is that we don't have the large forests in a good location in the South to produce the fuel for a low value return usage like dehydration. If they'd started planning 25 years ago…. But they put in d instead.

          If it was in the North Island, maybe – there is may be a case for processing wood waste. But even there I suspect that the returns from making particle board or shipping it for construction would be higher than processing it to burn it.

          That something is possible technically doesn’t make it viable. It has to be economically viable as well. So far I haven’t seen a viable case for wood pellets at an industrial scale outside of a wastage from an large already extant industry. Which doesn’t exist in a sustainable way in the south.

          • Ad 5.2.1.1.1

            Also they've achieved it in the Stirling plant. Both in the South Island.

            Fonterra’s Stirling site announces plans to get out of coal

            Also at their Brightwater plant at the top of the South Island, where they co-fire wood biomass.

            Also in Fonterra's Te Awamutu plant.

            Fonterra still has 8 of 29 sites still to come out of coal fired boilers.

            There's no excuses left for Fonterra about "viable case" or "economically viable" or "industrial scale". You’re just recycling more bullshit dairy industry myths.

            Fonterra need to go on record stating when they will be 100% coal-free.

            Budget 2022 and the release of the Plan would be an excellent time for Shaw to name and shame them for it.

        • pat 5.2.1.2

          Has anyone studied the carbon footprint of wood pellets/ bio fuels as a substitute for coal?….given the energy involved in processing and transporting chip in relation to the comparative heat output with coal I suspect the benefits are marginal at best.

      • Tiger Mountain 5.2.2

        yes

      • weka 5.2.3

        Tiwai closure and using the power in the grid rather than some stupid exporting data centre would provide a stop gap capacity.

        what do you think is most likely to happen after the stop gap?

    • Bruce 5.3

      In 1979 the Hikurangi Dairy Factory began to run its boilers on wood chips, not with out some teething issues, I would have thought an industry focused on sustainability would have progressed the technology by now, but sadly has not.

      • Ad 5.3.1

        Agree. And for the record MBIE, MPI have strangled efforts by MFE to lever Fonterra to invest in such innovation away from coal.

        Quite a lot of this is through the effective lobbying of National's Todd Muller, followed by Nicola Willis, while they were both leading execs at Fonterra.

        A National government with Willis at the economic and financial helm would be the biggest gift to Fonterra: our dominant business would have installed their own at Number 2.

  6. roblogic 6

    One day we will turn to the power source that shall not be named

    • Binders full of women 6.1

      Ditto…more people die EVERYDAY from coal power than have ever died in total from accidents from the one we can't mention.

      • weka 6.1.1

        this is why we can't have nice things. We could run society sustainably, but instead people want a source of BAU power that will mean we don't have to change and we can keep doing all the other planet, community and people destroying things.

    • pat 6.2

      Not until they improve the whole of life EROI and work out how to deal with the waste product.

    • Populuxe1 6.3

      I suspect nuclear will be fine somewhere like Australia where there's the empty space, tectonic stability and infrastructure is there to support it, but I can never quite fathom why boosters think it would work here. And before anyone rants about molten salt and thorium at me, those still produce radioactive, highly corrosive salt waste.

  7. Cricklewood 7

    Personally I think we should immediately stop Coal imports and burn our own coal whilst transitioning away from it as fast as possible. Govt could put an excise tax on coal that increases yearly as a means to hasten the change over and those funds can be used to help fund the transition.

    To my mind it saves emmisions transporting the stuff from Indonesia and means we can impose strict environmental standards on the extraction. Shutting our mines but increasing imports feels like a way of offshoring emmisions and from a global perspective makes things worse.

    • Pataua4life 7.1

      100% agree

    • lprent 7.2

      We really don't have the capacity to reopen closed mines at Huntley because they're mostly defunct. They'd have to develop new mines. Rather pointless if we're phasing coal out.

      The West Coast coal is entirely exported because it isn't useful for our industrial usage like Huntley, Glenbrook or the Golden bay cement works – ie where the imports are going.

      The Otago / Southland coals is crap that is only suitable for low grade heat in dryers.

      We’re at the cusp point where we should just look at banning the use of coal over the next decade. The biggest user of coal is Huntley power station – which isn’t getting any refurbishment.

      Why would we invest in something that we need to get rid of.

      Nostalgia is all fine and good for fools on the net – but it makes absolutely no sense for anything else apart from satisfying people who aren’t thinking..

    • Ad 7.3

      The Emissions Trading Scheme is a big tax on our major carbon polluters like Fonterra and Caltex that goes to the Climate Emergency Response Fund already set up. It will have about $4.5b to spend to 2025.

      So if Fonterra wants to avoid this big new tax they need to get out of coal altogether.

  8. peter sim 8

    I assume that this discussion about coal is associated with concerns about climate change.

    If climate change is the main issue why is it that the "tourism industry" is being encouraged.

    Visitors to nz need transport. Transport use CO2 producing petroleum products via combustion.

    Aeroplanes dump CO2 at high altitudes, to eventually blanket us at ground level.

    Freight (non human) like our essential imports and exports equally rely on CO2 producing fuels. Coal use matters. Petroleum use matters a lot more. A lot more. Especially aeroplane use.

    I pity my grandchildren and great grandchildren (if there are any).

    The petroleum companies are creaming it.

    Governments are paralysed.

    Apocolypse, anyone?

    • Ad 8.1

      It's a pretty simple answer.

      Tourism is the way every NZ mining town has successfully transitioned out of mining. Thames and Paeroa (Auckland tourists), then in the south Wanaka, Cardrona, Cromwell, Gibbston, Lawrence, Kyeburn, Ranfurly, Naseby, Omakau and Ophir, and Alexandra.

      Those that don't pivot to tourism are static like Huntly, Mercer or much of the West Coast, or already dead. You can check many of them out in Ghost Towns of New Zealand:

      West Coast – the ghost town capital of New Zealand | Stuff.co.nz

  9. tsmithfield 10

    It seems to me that the most fundamental issue to all of this is that we don't have enough renewable energy at the moment.

    There seems little point and totally self-defeating in pushing for a faster transition to electric cars and transport in New Zealand if it simply means burning more coal to power them. The cars then effectively become indirectly coal-powered.

    Given our extensive coastline, why aren't we going into tidal generation as a renewable option?

    Also, why aren't we heavily subsidising people to put solar panels on their roofs, especially where the orientation of the house suits that? The solar panel option would be a very quick and economical way of increasing power capacity in New Zealand compared to the cost and timescale of new dams. I would have thought a left-leaning, environmentally conscious government would have been all over this one like a big slobbery dog.

  10. Ad 11

    Don't trust anyone who talks about "transition" for your town if its based on mining particularly coal.

    For scenes of really hard deprivation and waste of good people, check out the ex-or-nearly-closed coal mining towns and villages we have: Huntly and its surrounding ghost towns like Meremere (main industry now a massive jail), Kaitangata in deepest Otago, Ohai and Nightcaps in Southland, Blackball and surrounding villages, Westport and surrounding villages, Reefton and Totara Flat and Stillwater and arguably Greymouth.

    We have a most dishonourable history of consigning these people to history, their graveyards of dead miners, their town halls, their broken lungs.

    The track record of "transition" is that actually the companies walked and everything rotted including the people. The transition as the unions will tell you is lies. And has been for over a century.

    No one dare suggest a plan to close the entire West Coast down, because between coal, dairy, climate change and the DOC estate that's what being done.

    Fair enough coal will close in time, but no one has ever laid down a plan for any of those families. What we've got instead is marginal and marginalised people eking their NZSuper out until they die forgotten.

    • weka 11.1

      that's because the people in positions of power lack the imagination, will, and probably ideologicaly compatibility to understand what transition is needed and how to make it happen. I saw the same thing in places like Tuatapere in the 90s when the wood exports changed. We're just really bad at this, but it's not because it cannot be done.

      I see it mostly with tourism, the industry is run by people who are stuck in a particular mindset and unable to see the how things could be done differently. The government is similar and thus gives more power to the people that cannot see a way out. This is why Queenstown tourism is still freaking out about the pandemic instead of getting on with transition with the understanding that covid, climate and Just transition are all part of the same whole. Meanwhile, the people who get what needs to be done are just getting on with it, but aren't being give the positions of power to make broader change. Too much denial going on.

      That guy in the vid who is angry at the protestors, he's the one voting against climate action and sealing his own fate. I understand why he is like that, and I don't particularly blame him. I blame the politicians and business leaders who are still pretending that climate change isn't happening now.

      • Ad 11.1.1

        Two centuries of the quarry-enclave economy says that no lessons are learned. What we get instead are ghost towns.

        West Coast – the ghost town capital of New Zealand | Stuff.co.nz

        The ones that survive are the ones that pivot to tourism.

        • weka 11.1.1.1

          what are the property prices like in those ghost towns?

          Unless they're pivoting to domestic tourism that can function in a low carbon near future, they're just treading water for a while. Which is understandable, but it's still a lack of vision from the people with the power and the money. NZ isn't a poor country.

      • Robert Guyton 11.1.2

        "… that's because the people in positions of power lack the imagination, will, and probably ideologicaly compatibility to understand…"

        QFT

        • weka 11.1.2.1

          What do you think should happen at Nightcaps and nearby towns? Is anyone in the area looking at constructive, Just Transition?

  11. How can it be possible to mine sustainably? Once the coal has been mined a hole is left or do you plan to fill this hole with coal and start again? It's time that this sunset business was faded out not expanded.

  12. Tiger Mountain 13

    It is hard not to run with the herd under capitalism, and particularly the neo liberal iteration which has rolled back collective action and working class organisation around the world.

    The contradictions are piling up for all to see in this climate disaster era.

    But the answer has always been community organising and direct action. Passivity and being a good consumer or silent in alienation and a munted life will no longer do.

    Full marks to XR.

  13. Mike the Lefty 14

    No spitting and snarling!

    No brawling with police and throwing rocks!

    No mindless screaming and foaming at the mouth!

    No throwing excrement and leaving piles of rubbish for others to clean up.

    In other words, these were actual REAL Kiwi protestors, not like the feral pretenders we saw in parliament grounds in February.

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