When we started our campaign against Westpac because of its investment in Bathurst Resources, the company bit back.
No, no, we don’t invest in Denniston, they said.
We were investing in Bathurst before they were planning Denniston, they said.
The facilities we have with them relate to their existing operations, they said. Nothing to do with Denniston, they said.
While we have written to Westpac to clarify all of these points, we haven’t heard back. They’ve gone silent, instead promoting their so-called sustainability. But Bathurst’s half yearly report, released recently, is very useful and has provided all the information we think we need.
It certainly doesn’t tell us anything that would lead us to call off the campaign, as Westpac thinks we should.
The Bathurst report (page 18) goes into great detail on its relationship with Westpac – perhaps in response to our campaign. Here’s the detail on Westpac from that report:
“In July 2012, the Group obtained a finance facility with Westpac New Zealand Limited for the acquisition of a new mining fleet. The total amount available and drawn on the facility as at 31 December 2013 was $3.5 million.”
This new mining fleet is currently being deployed at the Cascade mine, just down from Escarpment (Denniston). The thing is, Bathurst’s mining all it can out of Cascade, because it needs as much money as it can to fund the new mine.
Will none of that fleet be used to take the beautiful Denniston plateau apart? Even if it isn’t, all of Bathurst’s mines are being used to finance the new one. So it’s a bit silly to claim they’re not related.
It’s also a bit silly to claim, as they do, that their investments in Bathurst were made before the company had made any plans to mine Denniston. Bathurst’s whole entry into New Zealand was always all about Denniston and the coking coal up on that plateau. They’ve bought up all the mines they currently own in order to get this new mine (and the next five mines next to it) up and running.
Next quote from Bathurst’s report:
“In addition, the Group has with Westpac New Zealand Limited a term loan $1.2m, finance lease facilities $0.3m, and bank overdraft facilities which were unused at 31 December 2013.”
There are no caveats here about where this money from Bathurst’s term loan with Westpac should be spent. Again, this is about Bathurst having enough money to keep going and start digging up the Denniston Plateau.
Right now the company is in dire financial straits, not helped by the low price of coking coal. But it’s abundantly clear to us that Westpac is helping this company keep afloat through both loans: the $3.5million loan for its mining fleet and the $1.2million loan and the finance lease facilities.
While Bathurst has said this all-time low price of coal means they won’t start digging any up yet, (while laying off 29 workers), once it gets all the permits approved, it plans to start readying the Denniston Plateau for mining.
We have yet to find out whether this includes removing all the “overburden” [read: beauty, biodiversity], but, with Forest & Bird, have called on them not to do this and for the Minister of Conservation to hold back his permission.
We also note that the Buller District Council is getting very excited about the planning permissions being signed off. It looks like Bathurst may be clear of all the red tape pretty soon.
So it’s still a great time – if you’re a Westpac customer who wants to do something about Bathurst’s plans to dig up a beautiful part of New Zealand for coal that will ultimately end up in the sky and contribute to climate change – to
It’s not too late to switch away from Westpac in time for our Week of Action beginning 7th April around the country. So get switching people!
Final note: Westpac is also one of the banks propping up Solid Energy, who, along with Bathurst Resources, are both pretty shaky companies. You’d think they might learn that coal is a bad investment on so many levels. Maybe they should follow the path of Bill Koch (younger brother to the infamous Koch Industries brothers), who is getting out of the coal mining industry because, in his words, it “has kind of died.”