DOC grants access to open cast mine Denniston

The Minister of Conservation has allowed Australian owned Bathurst Resources Ltd access to conservation land on the Denniston Plateau to build open cast coal mine. This beautiful landscape with many rare species will be ripped open for coal if the Bathurst also obtain resource consents. The Environment Court final decision on this is due next week.

Nick Smith announced his decision under the old Crown Minerals Act and his interpretation of his conservation responsibilities. He made sure he didn’t have to run a public consultation process which the new Crown Minerals Act requires for significant applications like this one.

The West Coast people who are welcoming the decision are understandably desperate given the collapse of Solid Energy. They hope the jobs will save their economy, but as every coal mining based community in the world should know, the jobs cannot be relied upon. Meanwhile the Denniston Plateau is at huge risk.

I visited there last month and was deeply affected by the beauty, biodiversity, history, ecology and opportunity which will be lost if the open cast mine goes ahead. This plateau could be a mecca for historical and ecological tourism.

Nick Smith claims the small underground mines around the edge of the plateau have left some mess, and he is correct. But those small shafts and small heaps of rusty machinery are nothing compared to the effects of the proposed open cast Escarpment Mine and the proposals for further mines which will inevitably follow.

The huge elephant in this room is the fact that climate change is not being considered in the decisions around Denniston. Coal mining is a sunset industry and fossil fuels are on the way out. We can develop alternatives to coking coal in the steel production process but not overnight and not without a genuine investment. Meanwhile instead of grasping this challenge and the necessity for change, the Government is facilitating the destruction of one of the most extraordinary places in our country.

23 Comments Posted

  1. Kerry – we won’t get cheaper petrol from our own crude because much of it isn’t refined here. Instead we export it and import other crude which is refined into petrol and other fuels. In case people think this is because the NZ refinery can’t handle our crude – it is actually the other way around. Our crude is high quality, but our refinery can process cheaper low quality crude, so we make on the exchange. However it means that our petrol prices are set by the international prices of crude oils.


  2. its clear that climate sensitivity is lower than first thought

    You are quite mad you know. Because anyone with three working brain cells not known as Moe, Larry and Curly will see quite clearly that nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that we’ve REALLY managed is to constrain some of the long tail. The sensitivity estimates based on all methods still leave us in the 3 degree range and nothing like anything that should leave you complacent. More to the point, the uncertainty about the sensitivity works AGAINST your casual assumption that there is not much risk… and the rate of our CO2 release works against even a small sensitivity… and the acidification of the oceans makes a mockery of your non-concern.

    In short, you are clutching at straws, and they are of the short and losing variety.

  3. …and you know this how? There is no proof that the temperature rise will be limited to 1 degree, particularly if the statement is made without placing an upper limit on CO2 concentration. Do you really believe that the temperature rise will be just 1 degree if the CO2 is at 1200ppm? What about 1600ppm?

    I wasn’t arguing that mitigation is a waste of time. We need to limit the CO2 released AND take action to reduce the damage, and we will still be hit by more droughts, storms and floods.

    Rather than asking the oil companies’ geologists, try asking the insurance companies what is likely to happen.


  4. Trevor (from Roman-sorry wrong name on post)
    Nice argument showing that mitigation is a waste of time and that adaptation is better. The poor will be pleased. Too late for the 30,000 people who died in two weeks in the UK because of fuel poverty though. However, is a 1 degree rise really that worrisome? Because that’s all it is. Any suggestion that it is more than that is unproven and is just not going to happen. The science has moved on. So forget all the hyperbole that we will see 3-6 degrees k rises. You guys need to catch up.
    Shame it will ruin the meme of stopping mining for you though.

  5. Yes Roman, improved scrubbing technology will make coal a better and more environmentally friendly form of energy, but not better enough to justify continuing to burn it if we have any choices. The CO2 sensitivity may be lower than the upper limits previously considered but it is still nothing trivial and the costs of mitigating the warming which we can expect from the CO2 already released will be billions of dollars, plus further billions which will need to be spend repairing the increased damages from storms and floods due to those higher temperatures. And you want to add to the CO2 and increase these figures even more?

    Better to research geothermal fields and find sources of energy that don’t release large amounts of CO2, and invest in known renewable energy resources and proven energy conservation methods.


  6. Regarding coal, we probably should put money into continuing the research already started on “scrubbing” technology to remove soot from the process when we burn coal for energy. I dont really have a problem with the CO2 released as its clear that climate sensitivity is lower than first thought but the BLACK carbon aka soot IS a very serious problem and should be mitigated. Do that and then coal becomes a better and more environmentally form of energy.

  7. One good reason for conserving coal, and other hydrocarbons is the necessity to use them for manufacturing processes.

    The Waste in using them on short term energy production, when they may be much more valuable in future to our grandchildren, for raw materials, is yet another reason to leave them in the ground.

  8. Frances. Many people are not idiots, but they are not all that interested in politics. Unfortunately they get their information from the right wing “useful idiots” on TV, the Herald and talkback radio.

    Who all support that “nice Mr Key”.

    Photo is so unfailingly supportive of whatever evil NACT are proposing I think he is a paid shill for them, especially when he seems to have NACT’s research and fudged statistics on tap. If he is not paid then he is a fool.

    Some others that appear on here just like winding people up and trolling.

    Others are true believers, duped by the constant slogans, repeated memes and bullshit from the right..

    However, they are all useful to sharpen our teeth on!

  9. Thames. Millions of dollars in gold extracted, probably billions in today’s dollars.
    After it ended the town was bankrupted, most of the people there were unemployed and poor. The town didn’t recover until regional development placed a car factory there.
    Waihi. Huge mine in town. Lowest incomes of any town in the Coromandel.
    Te Aroha. Tui Mine. No noticeable benefit. Millions of dollars in cleanup costs.
    Taranaki. Still waiting for the cheaper petrol prices because we produce our own crude.
    West Coast. Solid energy bankrupt owing 400 million dollars.

    Better future, from mining?

  10. obviously few here who easily got brain washed by govt propoganda, they believe everything told by Key and his ministers in front of TV camera…
    (or they are just hired bouncers to poison this blog?)
    What can we say about this kind of people? Do we need to worry about what they have to say? (Oh maybe we do, even idot still can vote)

  11. “Minister of Conservation” is an utterly fucking ridiculous title for a man hell bent on destruction of OUR environment!

  12. In the not to distant future we will all have solar panels on our houses and will sell more electricity back into the grid than NZ can use. Why not push for that economic boom? Home made electricity will be as big as the discovery of Oil one day soon…

  13. The West Coast identity is mining coal but why hasn’t this long history made these communities wealthy witn great infrastructure? Coromandel used to rely on gold but we have moved on to celebrating our environment, easier when we are so close to Ak but we have to build a transition away from West Coast vulnerability to the roller coaster of coal companies. The climate is showing us the risks of fossil fuels but many leaders refuse to join the dots!!

  14. Catherine said:
    “We can develop alternatives to coking coal in the steel production process but not overnight and not without a genuine investment.”
    asks that question, and answers it with a “yes”. In fact, the original steel making process used biomass, and this is still an available option. Some but not all of the carbon used by the current processes can be avoided by using electrical heating, but the remaining carbon is needed in the steel and for reducing the iron oxides.

    So one of the steps to cut down coal use for steel manufacturing is to increase the amount of renewably generated electricity.


  15. I don’t buy that lame excuse some of the coasters use to justify mining as the only prospect of employment. There are a number of things that those communities can do to create jobs eco tourism, manufacturing, wind power, market gardening, sea farming, the arts, wild foods? etc. etc.

    A bit of get up and go and a bit of imagination can do wonders don’t you think.

  16. “I rejoice for the children of Deniston whose parents will have jobs.”

    Mines down the West Coast already employ Aussie contract miners. What bets on how many jobs for locals will actually eventuate?

    “I rejoice for Aotearoa as its bird chicks that will be protected with 22 million dollars.”

    Which won’t make up for the cuts to DOC’s funding.

    “I rejoice that the wairua will be enjoyed by all not just the elite few.”

    What ‘elite few’? Who’s this ‘all’? Are Bathurst going to let us all smell the money before they repatriate their profits overseas?

  17. It’s true that many people of the West Coast will benefit economically – just as many people around the world have benefitted at the same time as environmental destruction has been wrought (eg. the Amazon rain forest). We are always wrestling it seems with the short and long term effects of our actions. Since most of us are tending to think of our short-term personal gain or loss I expect our political leaders to hold the longer-term picture. However, they tend to only think as far as the next election. Where are the leaders who will help us think of the larger picture?

  18. I think this illustrates how difficult issues like this are, this isn’t “the people versus the government”, it’s “the people versus the people”. There is no absolute right and wrong, just points of view.

    I’m finding the fence quite comfortable at the moment, thank you.

  19. I cry for a Minister of Conservation who clearly wants to be the Minister of Business and Enterprise!

  20. I rejoice for the children of Deniston whose parents will have jobs.
    I rejoice for Aotearoa as its bird chicks that will be protected with 22 million dollars.
    I rejoice that the peaceful pukeko and kiwi will have a better chance of surviving.
    I rejoice that the wairua will be enjoyed by all not just the elite few.

  21. I cry for the children of Denniston.
    I cry for Aotearoa as she is ripped open.
    I cry of the peaceful Pukeko and noble Kiwi of the West Coast.
    I cry for the wairua

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