Forest & Bird is calling today’s takeover of the country’s largest coal mine by BT Mining a terrible deal for taxpayers and the environment.
BT Mining, a venture between Australian mining company Bathurst Resources and Motueka food company Talley’s Group, has bought three Solid Energy mines including Stockton, and takes over today, September 1st.
“Not only have the Government essentially given away these mines, but they have gone the extra mile to make the deal even worse for New Zealanders,” says Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
Last year, the Government took on $57 million worth of environmental liabilities from Stockton, relating to acid mine drainage. This comes on top of existing liabilities from Solid Energy mines - valued in 2014 at over $150 million - a large proportion of which relates to acid mine drainage at Stockton.
“The Government has said that they took on the additional liability in order to sell the mine and protect the jobs, but these have turned out to be incredibly expensive jobs for the taxpayer.”
Stockton currently employs 222 staff, so the taxpayer has subsidised those jobs to the tune of nearly $257,000 each.
“To further sweeten the deal, the Government is working to open up new areas of high conservation value land on the Buller Plateau, and make it easier for new mines to get the green light,” says Mr Hague.
“For a whole year, the Ministers of Conservation and Energy & Resources along with their officials have negotiated behind closed doors, as they seek to carve up the Buller Plateau to provide more certainty for coal mining.”
“We’ve uncovered investigations into establishing a Special Economic Zone on the plateau to bypass normal environmental protections, and most recently the Government has announced a new streamlined approval system for mining applications on the Coast,” says Mr Hague.
“Coal mining is a boom and bust industry. We only have to look at Bathurst’s Escarpment mine on the plateau, which was consented in 2013 but mothballed in 2016 when Holcim Cement moved off the Coast and the coal price fell.”
“Unique and ecologically rich conservation land has been ripped up for the mine, yet the promised 225 jobs have not materialised.”
“If the Government wants to heavily subsidise jobs on the West Coast, there are any number of innovative opportunities that don’t destroy the environment and the climate, and provide more long-term opportunities for local communities.”
“The Government could look to their own West Coast Economic Action Plan, which contains some great ideas such as cycle trails, horticulture, Maori tourism and building the West Coast’s digital infrastructure,” says Mr Hague.