Response to NZ Herald Editorial 26th July 2018
Your editorial on 26 July (“Government should lead the way on environment”) is full of holes.
Firstly, it assumes incorrectly that the government’s “No New Mining on Conservation Land” proposition is just about coal. This is incorrect. It would be a blanket ban, and would affect all mining. To pick a few - gold, coking coal, thermal coal, aggregates, pounamu, as well as strategic minerals like rare earth metals.
Secondly, lithium is neither a highly valuable metal, nor is it a rare earth metal. There’s a lot of it around but not necessarily in NZ.
Thirdly, your editorial only focuses on the role coal has in keeping the lights on. We mine and export coking coal to meet global demand for steel - this creates jobs and valuable export revenue. We mine thermal coal to meet demand primarily from the agricultural sector - again, valuable export revenue. Nor do you mention that without mining, including coal, we wouldn’t have concrete, cars, transport, infrastructure, phones, windmills, batteries - the list goes on.
Finally the editorial happily advises West Coasters that they should get with the play – how selfish they are in rejecting the opportunity to transition from their mining jobs to tourism jobs? But you’ve ignored the facts above and the reality that an average mining wage is $114,000 compared to those tourism jobs which average $40,000. Or perhaps no jobs at all!
I’d be more interested in an editorial which clearly defines the problem that a blanket ban on mining addresses. I’m at a loss to understand what that problem is.
Like all of us in the industry, I love my country: I’m a proud Kiwi, very conscious of the stunning landscape we call home and I’m not about to suggest that we wreck it. New Zealand has world class environmental legislation. The Resource Management Act (RMA) provides for the social, environmental and economic impacts of any proposed mining project to be assessed independently and for appropriate conditions to be imposed if the application is granted. This provides protection that meets society’s expectations, and has done so for decades. Mining has had access to Conservation Land since since the Conservation Act set this up in 1987. Yet despite that access, a recent estimate was that mining takes place on less than 0.2% of that land!
So Mr Editor, before you use the mining industry as a punch bag, you should perhaps spend time understanding the background facts.