Where there is a will there is a way

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coal mining in NZ article: "Labour against lignite plans"

by Alan Wood
NOV 8 2011 / Fairfax News

The original article can be found here:

Solid Energy's lignite development plans in Southland have come under fire from the Labour Party which sees wood or biofuels as being the long-term solution to fuel needs.

Labour spokesman for the environment Charles Chauvel, however, was less opposed to existing mining operations run or being ramped up by miners including Solid Energy and Bathurst Resources on the West Coast but did not want a start to lignite development.

Chauvel released Labour's policy to protect the environment on Sunday. Yesterday, he added that Solid Energy should not proceed with Southland plans for lignite-to-liquid fuels until technology to capture and store carbon emissions was available.

He said the natural environment helped define Kiwis, with expats for example returning home to bring up kids.

It also supported tourism and the food industries.

A spokeswoman for Solid Energy said the state-owned enterprise did not want to be drawn into political debate, but it stood by a previous statement relating to its plans to fit in with environmental concerns.

Taking full responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions was a key consideration in all Solid Energy's lignite developments and the company would look at options such as offsetting carbon emissions by biosequestration (planting more trees) or purchasing carbon credits, or capturing emissions.

Carbon capture and storage is said to be an expensive technology still at an experimental stage.
The coalminer is looking to develop new technologies including turning huge amounts of lignite resource into transport fuel and urea.

To take the plan forward, Solid Energy has bought Southland farmland in order to control 1.5 billion tonnes of lignite.

Chauvel said Labour did not think it was appropriate for a government or SOE to spend money on developing lignite when that would "blow out" carbon emissions and lead to climate change.

Chauvel said any plan to grow trees to offset carbon emissions would also face enormous constraints. "Basically you'd have to plant the entire South Island into forests to create a carbon sink to make up for what it would do to emissions from processing that dirty brown stuff under Southland."

The party viewed the export of mined coal, in already consented activities, as a less serious problem, and did not have anything in its policy to ban such mining, he said.

Labour had a plan to ramp up renewables such as geothermal power to create jobs and answer fuel needs. "In transport we're going to get emissions down by 40 per cent by promoting job rich industries like rail, coastal shipping and public transport."

Biofuels, including the use of wood waste as a biofuel source through yet-to-be commercialised techniques, would answer New Zealand's need for fuel, Chauvel said.

Environmental lobby group Coal Action Network welcomed Labour's stance, saying it was a major step in the right direction. "Labour has clearly taken on board the message that mining up to 6 billion tonnes of lignite that lies beneath prime Southland farmland will lead to many billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and also devastate the land, rivers and air of Southland," Network spokesman Tim Jones said.

The Network was also opposed to mining plans by Bathurst Resources coal project reserves in the Buller region.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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