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Activists carry out Waikato coal mine inspection, leave climate message

26 Jun

Press release – Sunday 26 June 2016

A group of eight activists from Auckland Coal Action, many of them grandparents, today carried out an inspection of Solid Energy’s Kopako 1 coal mine in the Waikato to protest its redevelopment, and left a climate change message for the company.

The mine, near Maramarua, in North East Waikato, has been dormant since the 1990’s, but Solid Energy has now begun work to revive it.  The team confirmed after walking into the site today that not only has overburden been removed, but coal mining from a seam has begun.

“Solid Energy is undertaking extensive development of this old coal mine, despite having no customers for the coal, and the international industry being in terminal decline,” said one of the activists, Geoff Mason of Auckland Coal Action.

“Meanwhile, the Government has signed the Paris Agreement which means that we have to get out of coal by 2050, globally, which means coal like this has to stay in the ground.

The team walked into the mine site, and spent around an hour at the coalface, wrapping a excavator in “climate crime scene” tape confirming that new mining has removed the overburden and is now digging up coal. They deployed signs and banners, before leaving again.

Among the activists who inspected the mine today was Phil, a great grandparent.

“I am seriously concerned about a climate changed future for my five great grandchildren – this is why I am here today, to tell Solid Energy and the Government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and keep the coal in the hole,” she said.

Auckland Coal Action is also concerned that one of the potential customers for the mine could be Fonterra, the country’s second-largest user of coal.  Fonterra was planning to open its own coal mine at nearby Mangatawhiri, but has put those plans on permanent hold.

“Solid Energy might be eyeing Fonterra as a potential customer, but Fonterra should be looking at changing its energy source to renewable wood and biomass rather than coal,” said Geoff Mason.

“What is clear is that this mine should be kept out of commission – for the climate, for the local environment and for our future.”

Photos of the day in this post.

 

Fonterra’s coal use under the spotlight at Mystery Creek

14 Jun

Media release from Auckland Coal Action 14 June 2015

Mystery Creek field day visitors were yesterday greeted with leaflets advertising that Fonterra is about to get out of using coal to dry its milk powder.

Members of Auckland Coal Action handed out nearly 2000 fliers to Mystery Creek visitors yesterday, fliers that announced Fonterra was getting out of coal and switching to the “fuel of the future” – woodchips – instead, and had small bags of woodchips attached.   They invited people to ask Fonterra about their fuel for drying milk powder.

Spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons said ” If New Zealand is to do its fair share on climate change, Fonterra just has to stop burning coal. We wanted people interested in farming to see that there is an alternative. For two years we’ve been trying to have a conversation with Fonterra to get away from coal – and they’re not listening, so today we thought we’d try another way of starting that conversation.”

Fonterra uses more than half a million tonnes of coal a year to dry milk powder, and this total is growing as it builds new plants. At the same time NZ farmers are being devastated by severe droughts yet climate change has only just started to make itself felt.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our farming future, medium and long term” said Fitzsimons.

Residues left on forest landing sites after harvesting trees can be chipped and partly dried and used as boiler fuel. There are companies willing to do this and it happens on a smaller scale – for example at Otago University and some schools. There are companies that will source, collect, process and deliver to markets. We know Fonterra has been in touch with them but nothing has happened because coal is so cheap.

Coal is the biggest contributor to climate change, worldwide. “Coal is cheap because it doesn’t have to pay for the environmental and health damage it does” said Fitzsimons. “It is effectively subsidised by the environment, and in the end by all of us”.

“Meanwhile New Zealand’s domestic coal use is being driven by Fonterra, which has signed huge contracts with Bathurst Resources, and Solid Energy.”

Fonterra was sufficiently worried about its reputation that Security Services and police were called to remove the leafleters, not just from the Fielddays site, but from the public roads surrounding it.

Auckland Coal Action is committed to phasing out coal to protect the climate, in a way that allows workers and communities to develop alternative forms of economic development. It has never advocated for the closure of any existing mine.

Contact: Jeanette Fitzsimons Auckland Coal Action 07 868 6641

 

Another addition to climate change approved

19 Oct

Media release from Auckland Coal Action 16 October 2013

Today’s decision to approve yet another new coal mine demonstrates again that NZ law cannot deal with climate change says Auckland Coal Action (ACA).

It is also failing to protect communities from disruptions to their way of life and threats to their health.

Consents issued by Waikato Regional and District Councils today have approved a 120,000 tonnes per year coalmine at Mangatawhiri in the north Waikato. The mine was applied for by Glencoal, a Fonterra subsidiary, to supply their three large Waikato milk drying plants.

ACA extends its sympathy and support to the residents of Mangatawhiri that the hearings panel has found their concerns about the health and quality of life effects of dust, noise, water, traffic and landscape to be “minor”. This seems to be largely because they did not call expensive expert witnesses to back up their case and Fonterra’s expensive expert witnesses carried the day.

“The panel acknowledged evidence from Coal Action Aotearoa’s expert witness Mr John Gifford, that Fonterra could use wood waste instead of coal, making the mine unnecessary” said Jeanette Fitzsimons. “However they said they would consider this only if they found the disbenefits to the local community were significant”.

“This is yet another indication that the law relating to climate change is inadequate. There is no serious central government policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local government is precluded from considering them when granting resource consents.”

Meanwhile renewable carbon neutral wood waste, which could substitute for the coal, rots on landing sites in forests because coal, which does not have to pay any substantial penalty for its environmental effects, is cheaper.”

 

Fonterra breaks consent conditions for dust control

9 Sep

Media Release – Auckland Coal Action

Sunday 8 September 2013

“Fonterra has repeatedly broken its consent conditions when handling coal and ash at its existing Kopako 3 coal mine and Waitoa dairy factory, says Auckland Coal Action.

Giving evidence in the second week of the hearings on the proposed new Mangatangi mine, spokesperson Geoff Mason showed photos of dust clouds at the mine and of uncovered coal ash trucks. Fonterra has said they cover these.

Conditions broken are:

  • That visible dust should not be in the air beyond the boundary of the mine.
  • That coal dust is wet down in the storage area at the Waitoa factory when necessary.

He also said that Fonterra’s application had stated that their treated mine water at the Kopako 3 mine consistently met standards for cloudiness, but failed to mention that water boron levels had exceeded limits recently.

“Why should we believe that Fonterra will observe any conditions set in relation to this mine, when they haven’t been keeping to their word with the old mine? said Mr Mason. “Furthermore we can show that they have three times successfully pushed for reduced dust control standards.” That raises the question of whose interests the council is trying to protect. It is a further worry is that any consent conditions for the Mangatangi mine will be removed later by the council with no right of hearing by submitters.

Auckland Coal Action is supporting local residents opposed to the mine and called expert evidence on the dust problem likely to be cause by the mining. Their expert witness stated that Glencoal should monitor background dust for at least 2-3 years before that mine starts, so as to get meaningful data on background dust levels. Glencoal is planning to monitor background dust for only a month.

Uncovered coal ash truck at Waitoa Dairy Factory

Uncovered coal ash truck at Waitoa Dairy Factory

Water truck stirring up a plume of dust.

Water truck stirring up a plume of dust

 

Roadside Coal Protest at Mangatawhiri

30 Mar

Media Release – Coal Free Mangatawhiri and Auckland Coal Action

 Saturday 30th March 2013

Coal Free Mangatawhiri and Auckland Coal Action are joining forces on Monday to protest Fonterraʼs proposed new coal mine beside state highway 2.

Protesters will gather from 2pm at Mangatawhiri south of Auckland for the roadside rally protesting Fonterraʼs proposed new Mangatangi Mine.

They hope to engage with people queued in traffic on SH2 on their way back to Auckland.

Local residents, iwi and supporters from Auckland will be calling for ʻno new coalʼ and making the point that ʻcoal cooks the climateʼ in an awareness raising campaign against the proposed mine.

Public submissions on resource consents for the mine, closed this week with Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Council. Hundreds of submissions were sent in by local residents, iwi and others opposing the proposed new coal mine at Mangatawhiri.

The resource consent applications were made by Fonterraʼs coal mining subsidiary Glencoal Energy Ltd, which is seeking consents for an open cast mine on farmland at Mangatawhiri right beside SH2.

If the mine goes ahead it will be highly visible to anyone driving along SH2. The mine is intended to produce 120,000 tonnes of coal a year to supply the Fonterra dairy factories at Waitoa, Hautapu and Te Awamutu. Fonterraʼs nearby Kopako coal mine is predicted to close in 2014.

Instead of opening a new coal mine in a farming community, locals believe Fonterra should phase out coal in favour of locally available cleaner burning, wood waste.

ENDS

Coal sponsorship perverse, says Professor; health effects worse than tobacco

17 Nov

Press release for immediate use – Auckland Coal Action

Saturday 17 November 2012

Tonight Auckland Coal Action (ACA) highlights the immorality of coal with a picket at an NZSO concert sponsored by national coal-miner Solid Energy.

Auckland University Professor Dr Klaus Bosselman comments, “Enjoying music thanks to Solid Energy’s coal operations is perverse and embarrassing and today unworthy of a cultural nation.” [Click here for full quote]

ACA spokesperson Alex Winter-Billington adds, “The NZSO should be fully state funded.”

NZ Herald coverage

According to the World Health Organization, “The effects of climate change on health will impact on most populations in the coming decades and put the lives and well-being of billions of people at increased risk.”1

“If we keep burning coal, the health effects of climate change will be bigger than AIDS, than heart disease, malaria — bigger even than cancer,” Winter-Billington says.

Burning coal releases more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than any other fossil fuel.

The air and water pollutants in coal-mining communities cause significantly higher rates of heart attack, stroke, cancer, birth defects, kidney, liver and brain damage and worsening of pulmonary diseases. 2

“Coal is by far the dirtiest form of energy in terms of climate and air pollution,” Winter-Billington continues, “and it’s worse for people’s health than tobacco ever was; but not just for the people using it, it impacts everyone alive and everyone who’s going to come after us: our children, our grandchildren, everyone.”

“Like tobacco companies in the past, Solid Energy is trying to make itself look like the ‘good guy’ through association with one of our national treasures. That’s not ok. They’re clearly not the ‘good guy’,” says Winter-Billington.

“Coal is today’s tobacco and we don’t tolerate tobacco sponsorship,” she concluded.

Ends

References:

1. 2012; Gender, Climate change and Health; World Health Organization.

2. 2011; Toxic Air: The case for cleaning up coal fired power-plants; American Lung Association.

“We love the NZSO, but coal dirties your good name”

19 Oct

Media Release – Auckland Coal Action

Friday 19 October 2012

Tonight, Auckland Coal Action (ACA) will again picket a Solid Energy sponsored NZSO concert at Auckland Town Hall in protest against the national coal miner.

ACA spokesman Tony Dunlop said “Coal does more harm to the environment and people’s health than tobacco ever has. We took a stand against community sponsorship from big tobacco – why do we still tolerate it from coal?”

Solid Energy sponsors the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

“Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and leading scientists agree that it must stay in the ground if we want to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren with climate chaos.” He commented further.

“Just like all those dirty tobacco companies, Solid Energy is promoting itself as one of the ‘good guys’ through association with our wonderful national orchestra. That’s not OK. They’re not the ‘good guys’.” Mr Dunlop added.

“The NZSO has been compelled to accept dirty sponsorship because of a lack of state funding. We support full state funding for the NZSO and are happy to pay the taxes to support this.” He said.

Mr Dunlop further commented “Before government acted, community organisations refused tobacco sponsorship on moral grounds and that paved the way to a change of legislation. When governments drag their heels, communities must take the lead. And in the case of climate change, there’s no time to lose.”

Auckland Coal Action is an independent community group committed to the ambitious goal of saving future generations from the chaos of runaway climate change.

Ends