Coal Action Network Aotearoa today called for the Government to “get real” about the future of coal.
Solid Energy going into administration is good for the workers currently employed by Solid Energy in the short term, but the future of coal is looking bleak.
“It’s good that no workers will lose their jobs today,” said CANA’s Cindy Baxter. “But, our “Jobs After Coal” report shows coal mining in New Zealand doesn’t have a history of helping the communities it serves – in most areas where coal is mined, the median income of those communities is lower than the regional average.”
The Government has continually failed to face the reasons for Solid Energy’s freefall in recent years. It pushed the company into an untenable position by changing policies such as the mandatory biofuels regulation, and backed the its failed and highly irresponsible plans to mine billions of tones of Southland lignite. What’s more, the Government continued to insist that Solid went into more debt, all the time ignoring the plummeting coal prices.
“Coal is on the way out. If the Government had woken up to this fact a few years ago, a serious discussion about a Just Transition away from coal would already have been well underway,” said Baxter.
While the company will continue trading, CANA said there are questions that have to be asked:
“Who is going to buy Solid Energy’s assets? Earlier this month, a coking coalmine in Australia changed hands for just $1. As Bloomberg reports, the downturn in the Chinese steel industry has let to a glut of coking coal and iron ore. Analysts don’t expect to see a change in this any time soon.”
If Solid Energy’s assets are sold to international interests, what happens to the remediation of the mine, and promises made to the Government in the Solid Energy consents?
“Would an overseas company pay for the care of the snails in DOC’s fridge?”
There are also concerns about any assets – such as undeveloped mines with permits – also being sold off to international interests and being developed. Despite the continued failure of the Government’s “mine it, dig it, drill it, burn it” strategy, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges recently announcedfurther Government support for mining.
Coal Action Network Aotearoa is opposed to new and expanded coalmines, but says that Solid Energy’s existing mines should be maintained until their current permits run out.