Kia ora koutou,

Though the end of the year is fast approaching, that hasn’t slowed down
the pace of developments regarding the expansion of coal mining in
Aotearoa/New Zealand: and the tragedy at the Pike River Mine is being spun
by the mining industry as an excuse to allow opencast mining on
conservation land.

Meanwhile, as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment joins
groups such as the Coal Action Network in pursuing Solid Energy for more
information about its lignite mining plans and their greenhouse gas
emission consequences, a new player has arrived on the scene in the shape
of Greywolf Mining, an Australian front company for the Qinghua Group of

There is more news about all that below, but first, what is the Coal
Action Network planning in early 2011, and how can you help with the

(1) Events in 2011

The Coal Action Network is planning to step out from behind the scenes
with public meetings in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch in February
/ March 2011. Once we have dates and venues confirmed, we’ll be asking
Coal Action Network members in those places if you’re able to help with
publicity and with meeting arrangements – and, of course, we’ll also be
asking you to come along!

Then, in May, distinguished American climate scientist James Hansen will
be visiting New Zealand to talk about the crucial decision New Zealand and
the world has to take about coal. Put simply, if we dig up the world’s
coal and burn it, then we will ensure that the climate is rapidly and
dangerously changed, and this will be irreversible over timescales
meaningful to the human race. If we leave it in the ground, then we still
have a chance of avoiding, or at least minimising, dangerous climate

And there is enough coal – especially lignite – in New Zealand that what
this country does will make a significant difference on the world scale.
James Hansen, who has himself been arrested in protests against coal
mining in the US, will be adding a powerful voice to the campaign to Keep
The Coal In The Hole.

2011 promises to be an interesting and active year. There will be plenty
more to talk about as the year goes on, but in the meantime, you can:

* Talk to friends and family about this issue. Especially outside
Southland and Otago, there is a great deal of ignorance about the massive
mining developments planned for that region, and their climate
implications. Make sure the people closest to you know what’s going on.

* Write a letter to your local paper. It may seem very “old media”, but
Letters to the Editor are widely read – not least by politicians. Tell
your community why coal has to stay in the ground.

Now for a roundup of recent developments:

(2) Coal Action Network statement on Pike River Coal

There is blood on every ounce of coal.

The Coal Action Network sends our solidarity and sympathy to the families
and communities on the Coast who have lost loved ones in the Pike River
mining disaster.  This was not a ‘natural disaster’ and like many
tragedies in mines that have come before, and the ongoing deaths of
individual workers in mines every year, workers have again died because of
the companies’ drive for profit.

As the human cost of coal through its extraction and through climate
change continues to grow, perhaps it’s time to ask the question: How much
blood for coal?

Here are two independent perspectives on the issue that provide food for
thought – and debate:

Nandor Tanczos: Pike River – the hard coaled facts:—the-hard-coaled-facts/tabid/1341/articleID/188481/Default.aspx

Matt McCarten: Eventually someone will be held culpable:

(3) Solid Energy: Evasions and Offsets

Solid Energy don’t like being asked awkward questions about their plans to
exploit Southland lignite. When they are asked those questions under the
Official Information Act, they can’t avoid answering, but they try very
hard to limit their answers, and they use the defence of commercial
sensitivity permitted under the Act to remove as much useful information
as they can.

MPs, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and environmental
groups are all pursuing Solid Energy for this information. The good news
is that, even in their attempts to prevaricate, Solid Energy do give away
some useful information. From Solid Energy’s attempts to avoid answering a
recent OIA request by Green MP Catherine Delahunty regarding their plans
for biosequestration, i.e. attempting to offset emissions from their
lignite mining plans by gaining credits for sequestering carbon in living
things, we now know that they are working on the following projects in
this area. Solid Energy says:

“1. Forestry development and acquisition

Along with our currently owned forestry, Solid Energy is investigating
options around exotic and indigenous forestry development.  We have
been actively involved with assessing afforestation propositions and
investigating potential afforestation investments.

2. Mokihinui forest regeneration study

Solid Energy is running a scientific study to investigate the effects
of pest control on the regeneration of indigenous forests.  The
objective of this study is to understand the impact of the removal of
ungulates from native forests and assess the most effective ways to
enhance carbon store.

3. Biomass burial

Solid Energy has continued to investigate the potential of biomass
burial as a source of carbon storage.

– Correspondence from Solid Energy regarding Official Information Act
request, 3 December 2010”

No. 3 on this list is especially interesting. Instead of keeping coal in
the ground, it appears that Solid Energy’s bright new idea is to stick
plant matter in the ground in the happy expectation that it will turn into
more coal in due course.

(4) Qinghua/Greywolf

Australian mining company Greywolf is the recently-formed Australasian
front company for the Qinghua mining conglomerate of China. According to
Greywolf, they have big plans around coal mining, processing and export,
including a lignite mine and lignite-to-briquettes plan for Southland –

Naturally, we share the concern expressed by the Green Party and
Greenpeace about these plans, and we’re no less opposed to them than we
are to Solid Energy’s lignite exploitation plans. There is a risk that
such projects will be handwaved through by Minister Brownlee and not go
through the full consenting process.

(5) Lyttelton

The Lyttelton Port Company’s plans to expand its facilities to export coal
were set back by the Christchurch earthquake. Their response? They are
applying to have their consent applications considered at the Environment
Court, skipping the resource consent stage. We’re working to oppose these
planned developments as well.

So there’s a lot going on. Let’s all have a good break over the holiday
period, and return energised for a strong start to the campaign in 2011.

Tim Jones
for the Coal Action Network