By Jeanette Fitzsimons

Fonterra has just confirmed, in a letter to local residents, that its proposed mine at Mangatangi, in the Waikato, is “on hold” – confirming CANA’s claim earlier this year.

Auckland Coal Action protest at Fonterra's proposed Mangatangi mine.

Auckland Coal Action protest at Fonterra’s proposed Mangatangi mine.

We can’t help but smile,  because the day after we wrote a blog in February, saying the mine was “on hold indefinitely” a furious Fonterra claimed in the NBR that the mine was not on hold, but simply “delayed.”

The difference was never made clear to us and we remained puzzled at Fonterra’s overreaction to what appeared to be a nicety of the English language.

Last week, six months later, this is what Fonterra, through its Glencoal subsidiary, said in a letter to local residents:

“It has recently been decided to put the development of Mangatangi mine on hold, given the economic position of Fonterra and the dairy industry generally.”

While the initial deferment was said to be due to environmental conditions, and then to coal prices, the reasons for “on hold” is “Fonterra’s economic position”. No doubt all three have something to do with it.

However, Auckland Coal Action’s determined opposition, both at the hearings (where CANA also participated and brought evidence about the viability of wood waste as a fuel) and on seven long weekends where they lined State Highway 2 with banners proclaiming Fonterra’s coal use and climate impacts, undoubtedly shook the company.

“Fonterra’s economic position” would be a more credible reason if there was some sign that they will be processing less milk. However, they have just applied for consents for a ten-fold expansion of their South Canterbury Studholme plant, with four new coal boilers and two new milk driers, all of which they want to run on dirty coal.

The three Waikato plants that use the coal Mangatangi was going to produce show no signs of cutting back. As we said in February, they have a new 100,000+ tonne contract with Solid Energy, no doubt now at fire sale prices, and don’t need to open a new mine themselves.

While local residents are celebrating the reprieve for their community, none of this reduces the coal that will be burned, nor the carbon dioxide released. That’s why CANA is still campaigning on Fonterra’s use of coal.

But we’re wondering whether the NBR might like to have another look at the story they wrote about poor Fonterra being misrepresented by CANA?