Reality Check for Anti-Coal Activists
25 June 2019
Activists opposing the recent decision to grant a coal exploration permit on Crown land in the Waikato region need a reality check, says Straterra Chief executive Chris Baker.
The permit was awarded in September 2018 to BT Mining, giving the company the ability to explore for coal, and the opportunity to evaluate coal identified for "feasibility of mining".
Mr Baker says coal still has an important role to play in New Zealand and that role is willfully ignored by the groups that have come out opposing this decision.
“Coal is mined in the Waikato region to meet demand mainly from the Huntly power station and the Glenbrook steel plant. Over the past three years the Huntly power station has used an average of 310,000 tons of coal a year from local production and imports and in the last 12 months 812,848 tons has been imported.
“This coal is used so that the lights stay on, and businesses can operate. Coal provides the backup when the lakes are low and / or gas shortages occur.
The Glenbrook plant uses Waikato coal to make steel. This is the same quality coal that the Huntly Power station uses, but coal is a mineral input in the steel making process. Most steel globally is made with coking coal but the Glenbrook process has been designed to use the local coal. Bathurst Resources advise that 70% of coal mined in the Waikato is, and will be, supplied to the Glenbrook steel plant as a raw material and 25% will be used for electricity generation.
“The protestors call to ‘put an end to this’ needs a reality check,” says Mr Baker.
“We can stop making steel in New Zealand, but the lost jobs, export revenue and steel production will simply be replaced overseas – probably with higher emissions. Other technologies will ‘push out’ coal and demand from the Huntly Power station will decrease over time – but while demand exists that demand will be met by responsible mining companies such as Bathurst Resources, or the coal will be imported.
“Governments don’t tend to survive unnecessary blackouts. I was heartened by the considered responses from the Prime Minister and Minister of Energy, which clearly show they understand these realities. However, the protestors seem to think that the weight of emissions reductions is all on New Zealand’s shoulders.
“Of course, we have to do our share but if we follow their advice the lights will go out, we will lose jobs and there will be an increase in global emissions – albeit a tiny increase because New Zealand is a very small contributor. How does that make sense?”
Mr Baker urges open debate on the issue rather than simplistic ‘stop it right now’ demands that ignore economic, social and environmental realities.