Every “green job” relies on mining

Farming and tourism are often held up as “green” jobs. The sectors combined employ directly 200,000 New Zealanders, accounting for 13% of households in New Zealand.

When the indirect jobs are included – e.g., suppliers, contractors, support services – those figures could easily double.

Our pastures are lush and green thanks to lime, dolomite and other minerals that are quarried in NZ. 1 million tonnes of rock phosphate imported every year from Morocco for fertiliser, could perhaps, be replaced soon by product mined from the Chatham Rise. All of our soils are made of minerals, and all plants and animals - and humans - need minerals to survive. And New Zealand’s irrigation infrastructure is built largely of steel, concrete and aggregates, much of which is locally produced.

The food industry is intimately linked to the use of coal, or fossil fuels, as the source of process heat. Were it not for our abundant resources of cost effective coal and gas, New Zealand would not be able to compete in international markets as we do so successfully.

In every case, mining and quarrying is central to green jobs. Milking sheds, packing sheds, wool sheds, implement sheds, farm tracks and races, all contain aggregates or concrete and steel as do their processing plants, Galvanised steel wire in New Zealand runs into the 100,000s of kilometres of farm fencing. The majority is made from steel manufactured in New Zealand. 

A transition to a largely electric vehicle fleet is one oft-touted option for lessening dependence on fossil fuels, however, would raise demand for some minerals and metals. To illustrate, if this technology reached 85% of the global transport market, it would absorb 20% of global demand for copper. As well, over the 10 years from 2000, 60% of new electricity generation capacity globally was provided by fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency has reported.

Green-tech generally would lead to more mining of some minerals. Consider that a single wind turbine contains around 4 tonnes of copper, 300t of steel, 3t of aluminium, 500kg of rare earth elements, and 1100t of concrete. The concrete would be supplied from NZ along with aggregates for the roading infrastructure to support it as well as the non-specialised steel. 

To summarise, it is impossible to think of a single thing a farmer or tourism operator, or green energy company, or related person or business, or every New Zealander, could do without mining or quarrying as the basic building block. Mining and quarrying is at the heart of the green economy, as it is for the wider NZ economy.

It is a bald and unpalatable fact, that if quarrying and mining were to be shut down overnight, the NZ economy would begin to grind to a halt within days.