by Catherine Delahunty
I never knew what Nightcaps was. Now I know it is a town 45 minutes drive from Invercargill with a coal mining history and some very current problems. Nightcaps have had coal mining since the late 1880s and have experienced tragedy as well as identity through coal mining. Now the community lives with an expanded coal mine which is impacting on residents and they want justice.
Yesterday I spoke to Alana Barrett who has moved out of Nightcaps because she and her daughter both tested high for lead levels. But she mentioned the open cast mine dust contained more heavy metals such as arsenic and boron and that aluminium has been found in the local waterway. So the underground mine turned into an open cast mine right next to the town and the Takitimu mine itself went from producing 13,000 tonnes of coal to producing 170,000 tonnes of coal per year in the last three years. The mine is elevated above the town on District Council land (which makes the consent issues quite interesting) and smoke and dust are ongoing problems.
The company Eastern Corporation of Australia claim to have spent money on sprinklers but the Nightcaps residents are not happy. Contrast this with Gerry Brownlee’s modern and surgical mining claims. The plan is to develop the Southland lignite mines. This is low grade coal and whether they make it into urea or sell it to pollute other countries, none of it helps our tally of greenhouse gas emissions. And we should be listening to the Nightcaps community when they tell us that coal mining is dirty and is making people sick. On Saturday the Green Party will be supporting the anti mining march in Invercargill because we want to hear from all the Southland communities.