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Coal Action Network Aotearoa Newsletter 

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Kia ora koutou

1.  Coal Price Rise is Unsustainable

by Jeanette Fitzsimons

Industry is exulting over a stellar rise in the coal price this year. But we won’t be investing our savings.

The 5 year steady drop in the price of coking coal since 2011 has slowed work at Stockton, prevented the development of Bathurst’s Denniston mine until last year, then after a brief flurry of activity to ensure the consent remained valid, put that mine on hold indefinitely.  Now in a few months coking coal that was selling at $72/tonne in January is selling at US$213. Australian thermal coal has risen by 85% - though is still short of 2011 levels.

Whitehaven Coal’s share price has risen by 600% but investors would be wise to be cautious. Zhao Chenxin of China’s National Development and Reform Commission has said “the current soaring price has no market foundation and is not sustainable”.

Bathurst seems to have similar concerns. They have not reopened Denniston and their share price remains below 6 cents. Perhaps they wanted to downplay the rise until they purchased Solid Energy’s Stockton mine?  

Why did the coal price drop over 5 years, why has it risen sharply again this year, and why do we think this will not last?

Read more on reasons for price changes in our blog.

2.  West Coast Coal

by Tim Jones

There’s news from the West Coast, and it’s not pretty

With the rise in the coal price described in Jeanette’s article, all sorts of people’s eyes are lighting up at the prospects of making a quick and dirty buck out of coal again – and the climate be damned. As usual, many of these developments involve the West Coast, where the just transition away from fossil fuels called for in our 2014 report Jobs After Coal: A Just Transition For New Zealand Communities has failed to be implemented, meaning that the temptation to take just one more hit of coal is always present.

And when it comes to mining and burning things that shouldn’t be mined and burned, there is no bigger set of chancers than the current Government. Currently, they are trying to push through a set of amendments to the Resource Management Act called the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. Many of these amendments look innocuous on the surface – but if they pass, the Government is plotting to use them to make it much easier for coal to be mined on the West Coast.

How do we know that? Because Government advisors are already planning to use the powers in that Bill, if and when it becomes law, to open up a huge chunk of the Coast to coal mining without requiring a resource consent. That would remove at the stroke of a pen a major tool climate change activists can use to stop coal projects, or at least delay them until they’re no longer economic.

The MBIE report that contains these proposals is the Tai Poutini West Coast Growth Study, and you can find it here:
The three proposals to make mining easier are:

  1. Identify areas of stewardship land of low conservation value and open these up for mining (or dairying!)
  2. Create a 'single window' for dealing with applications and consents - in other word, roll all potential hearings on a proposed mining project into one
  3. Allow mining as a permitted use in 'selected areas' of the Buller Coalfield, meaning that no resource consent would be required for such mining. The potential legal basis for this is the Collaborative Planning Process contained in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, which can enable a District Plan Change. Appeals on such a District Plan Change would be limited to points of law.

While each of these of these proposals would make getting new mines approved easier, the main concern is #3, which would appear to give the Buller District Council carte blanche to approve multiple coal mines at once – with no consideration of their adverse environmental effects. In an era of rapid climate change, it’s hard to imagine a more misguided proposal.
The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill is currently tied up in Parliamentary horse-trading. Let’s hope it stays there.

3.  Coal Just Won't Go Away

by Jeanette Fitzsimons

You would think, wouldn’t you, with coal prices plummeting over the last 5 years, most households moving away from coal fires, councils with clean air rules, cement works closing, successful conversions of school boilers to wood waste, and Huntly power station on its way out, that coal would be looking like yesterday’s fuel, with production dropping.

Instead of that, Takitimu is expanding into Black Diamond; Kopako 1 has reopened near Maramarua; Canterbury Coal is growing its production; applications are in for new mines at Te Kuha on the West Coast and the Panirau Plateau (aka Mokau South) in Taranaki. Why?

The answer is milk – and more milk, and more milk.

Not many people realise that the dairy industry is the largest consumer of coal after theNZ Steel mill, and that coal-fired milk drying plant is still expanding. Bathurst mines Takitimu for Fonterra’s Clandeboye and Canterbury Coal for Fonterra’s Darfield and for Synlait.    (Synlait also imports coal from Indonesia);  Solid Energy mines New Vale lignite for Fonterra’s Edendale; Glencoal has reopened the Kopako mine for Fonterra’s Waikato dairy plants and Mataura Milk is about to build a  new milk drying plant at Gore, also running on coal. We doubt that Fonterra’s consent for a huge new plant at Studholme will ever be exercised, but if it is, that’s a big further increase in coal burning.

That’s all thermal coal; but it is dairy that keeps the coking coal industry going too. Bathurst can only afford to keep Denniston in mothballs and bid to buy Solid Energy’s Stockton and other West Coat assets because it has the income stream from supplying the dairy industry from its sub-bituminous mines. Coal in New Zealand is dependent on coal.

Dairy expansion is a triple whammy for the environment: rivers fouled with nitrogen and cow manure; soils compacted with intensive grazing; palm kernel feed incentivising the replacing of orangutan habitat with palm plantations; and expanding greenhouse gas emissions from coal.

A lot to answer for.

4.  Solid Energy Sold

by Jeanette Fitzsimons

News of the sales of various Solid Energy assets is just out. We remain amazed that people are still investing in a sunset industry whose economic outlook is bleak.

While Solid Energy had the backing of the taxpayer (who is still bearing the burden of their big loss) and was able to pay no dividends, these companies will be expected by their shareholders to make a profit and there will be no bailout if they fail. 
Our old sparing partners Bathurst Resources have partnered with Talleys to form Phoenix, which is buying the Stockton mine (no doubt including its horrible extension into the gorgeous Happy Valley next door). This is close enough to their mothballed Escarpment mine on Denniston for them to use the Stockton coal washing and processing plant - probably the main attraction of the sale as the highest quality coal in Stockton has gone.  
They have also bought the Waikato mines - Rotowaro and Maramarua. This is an odd choice for a food company, getting into dirty coal alongside its fish and vegetables. But Talleys are coal users too.  Unfortunately they have a bad reputation for their attitude to environmental concerns and for worker health and safety so we will be watching them carefully. 
When you look at the current configuration of who owns what, it is clear that it is only the dairy industry that is keeping coal mining alive. Bathurst would have folded its tent several years ago when the price plummeted if it hadn’t had the Fonterra contracts and the Takitimu and Canterbury Coal thermal coal mines. Now they also have the Waikato mines which fuel Fonterra’s three Waikato milk drying plants. 
All we need is a decent price on carbon for the dairy industry to embrace wood waste for their boilers, and coal would finally stay in the ground, where the climate demands it must remain. 
5.  CANA Gets a Makeover

by Harvey Molloy

Yes, we’re familiar with all the stereotypes about environmentalists . . . we’re scruffy Luddites resistant to ironing our shirts or slapping on a bit of lippy.  Well, we’ll admit to being little unkempt at home in our sweatpants and hoodies but when we go out to talk to folks about why we need to keep the coal in the hole we try to scrub up and look as flash as we can — that’s why we’ve spruced up our website.  We hoping that it looks more attractive than our previous design.  We want to look good for you.

We now have a new pithy domain name ( and we’ve tidied up the site so all the wealth of information we have on coal is easier for you to find. Under the ‘Coal’ heading on the top menu bar you’ll see that we have a section on ‘proposed new mines’ along with a fact sheet on coal called —you guessed it—’coal facts.’

There’s also a handy ‘donate’ page so you can help us and support our efforts to move to sustainable energy sources.  And if you scroll down the page a little you’ll see a link to our twitter feed.
We hope you like our new look and we welcome your comment. We want to thank Dieter Riedel at Web and Design Boutique for all his hard work and support in helping us revamp the site.

6.  Reading Recommendation

by Harvey Molloy

I'm with the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet.
Edited by Mark Martin. 
Introduced by Bill McKibben.
Verso Books.

This anthology of short stories is a fund-raising venture with all royalties from book sales going to There are some big name writers involved with stories from Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, David Mitchell, T.C. Boyle,  Kim Stanley Robinson and Lydia Millet, and a few (for me) less familiar names.

Fiction about climate change is notoriously difficult and these stories highlight some of the challenges facing the prospective writer of cli-fi. Some of the futures depicted here pack a visceral impact—Helen Simpson’s account of kidnapping and rape is a brutal read--but the dystopia might be a tad familiar.  Paolo Bacigalupi’s 'The Tamarisk Hunter' paints a vivid picture of a drought-ravaged California and harsh conditions workers living outside the few remaining major cities face—but the ending is hampered by a predictable storyline.  

The stories which approach climate change in more surprising, less direct ways are far more engaging.  Nathanial Rich's surreal 'Hermie' describes the unlikely reunion in a hotel public washroom of a professor of marine biology with his favourite childhood hermit crab.  The talking crab has more than a few questions for the well-published expert on the impending extinction of his species. It's a crazy, unforgettable tale.  Margaret Atwood's 'Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet' in three pages presents a mythopoetic account of the end of world as we know it and what comes after. 

All of these writers are accomplished and while some of the terrain covered here is familiar the collection still works as a whole.

7.  International

by Harvey Molloy
Paris climate deal thrown into uncertainty by US election result. See

 ‘Clean Coal is far from Real.’  Don’t believe Trump’s hype. More at
Underground Coal Gasification banned by Scottish Government. More at
Coal price rally raises Australian hopes – but it won't last, say economists. More at The Guardian
Legal wins, coal price up but Adani’s Australian mine still “unbankable." More at Climate Change News.
Dutch parliament votes to close down country's coal industry.  More at
The Guardian
Hitting 'rock bottom':  Prospect of big revamp of NSW environmental controls.
More at The Sydney Morning Herald
2016 The Hottest year on Record.  More at The Guardian.
Judge Throws Out Charges Against Journalist Who Covered Dakota Access Pipeline.  More at Mother Jones.
Rains impact South Eastern Coalfields Limited coal production. More at Times of India  
Thanks to Coalwire and Climate for Change for some of these stories.

8.  Spoiler Alert!
There’s a strange tale making the rounds in certain industry circles that ‘natural’ gas is a nice, safe, green transition fuel that will take us along our bridge towards a cleaner energy future.

What a crock of cobblers. Do not be fooled; Gas ain’t Green. Gas is the fossil fuel industry’s way of delaying the urgently needed transition away from their profit-making planet-destroying products. Evidence is piling up that fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas drilling have been badly underestimated – at a time when this relatively short-lived but highly potent greenhouse gas could be the trigger to unstoppable climate change.

See Rosemary’s blog:

9.  Current and Upcoming Events
10. CANA Blog

CANA’s blog is at

As well as our latest news, you’ll find pages (shown across the top of the blog) with information and resources you can use.

See boxes below for Facebook and Twitter. 

11. How to donate to CANA

We rely on your generous donations to keep the campaign going. Here are the account details if you want to donate:
Coal Action Network
38 9011 0484435 00 

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