Protesters today greeted mining conference delegates on their field trip to the North Island’s largest coal mine near Huntly calling for New Zealand to rapidly phase out the use of coal to help stop climate change.
The 15 protesters – from Auckland Coal Action, Coal Action Network Aotearoa and other groups, held anti-coal banners and signs, as around 30 mining industry executives arrived at the mine at 10 am this morning.
The delegates from the AusIMM mining conference, which begins tomorrow in Tauranga, have spent the weekend on field trips to mine sites, being dogged by protesters at every stop. Yesterday, six activists were arrested in the Karangahake Gorge.
The Rotowaro coa mine, near Huntly, is jointly owned by BT Mining (Bathurst Resources Ltd and Talley’s Energy), and supplies the Huntly Power Station, New Zealand Steel and other customers. Other mines in the area supply Fonterra.
“The need to rapidly phase out coal use to protect the environment has now become extremely clear, and is an essential step to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding global warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels,” said Auckland Coal Action spokesperson, Peter Whitmore.
“New Zealand has an abundance of wind and sun energy that can be captured. With today’s technologies and the advent of wall batteries, more insulation and energy efficiency, coupled with our hydropower, we should be turning away from coal, not digging more of it up – and we should be shutting down Huntly this year, as originally planned.”
Just down the road from the Rotowaro mine is the Kopako1 mine, also owned by BT mining, which supplies coal to Fonterra’s three big coal-fired boilers in the Waikato. The mining delegates will head to the Kopako 1 mine after Rotowaro where they will be greeted by more protestors.
Fonterra is New Zealand’s second-largest user of coal after NZ Steel. Kopako1 was re-opened in 2015, after local protests stopped Fonterra from starting its own coal mine at Mangatawhiri.
“Coal mines right around the country are being re-opened or extended because of dairy expansion,” saidCoal Action Network Aotearoa’s Jeanette Fitzsimons. “It feels like we are going backwards on coal, which simply has no role if we want to address climate change. Our model of industrial farming is unsustainable.”
Both groups called on the Government to put a hefty enough price on coal so as to create a disincentive to use coal, which was still too cheap as the costs of its impacts – from health effects to climate change – are not factored into its price.
A few days ago, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said in a key speech, “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us… We need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action. We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun.”
“We need to listen to Guterres, and the many others who have given this message,” says Whitmore, and start taking immediate and effective action.”