Giant Chinese energy company Qinghua Group - with more than $12 billion of mining assets - is assessing several billion-dollar projects across the South Island. The west coasts of both the North and South Islands, with onshore and offshore iron-ore deposits, are being assessed for possible sites for a port purchase and steel mill construction. The South Island West Coast's specialist hard coking coal is a key ingredient for steel manufacturing. Edward LancasterOtago and Southland lignite deposits could be used for petrochemical or briquetting plants. Qinghua's joint venture partners Greywolf Gold-mining, incorporated in March this year, are spearheading project analysis, saying Qinghua has $10 billion to spend in New Zealand in 2011.
"We had hoped to make announcements in the new year, but the [three New Zealand] visits by Qinghua have been attracting attention," said Mr Lancaster, whose company directors include brother Michael and son Jolian.
Mr Lancaster said meetings were being sought through the offices of Prime Minister John Key and Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee, but the Pike River disaster had prompted deferral of meetings "for several weeks", he said.10 billion to spend - if you just care about money that will be hard to resist but luckily more people care about the environment, global warming and the effect upon all peoples especially our pasifika cousins. Ngāi Tahu must oppose these developments for our children and their children.
Mr Lancaster described Qinghua Group as the largest private Chinese mining company and "the Chinese version of BHP Billiton in Australia", the world's largest diversified resource group. Mr Lancaster said Qinghua was also looking at prospects in Russia, South America and Africa. In New Zealand, Central Otago coal seam gas deposits are also in the mix, possibly for power generation to places such as Queenstown or Alexandra. The group is also thought to be seeking permit holdings in ironsand on the Kapiti coast and Manawatu River. There are also plans to acquire a coking coal field near Collingwood.
The focus of the current negotiations is to buy rights to an estimated 2 billion tonnes of southern lignite, half of which could be converted to petro-chemicals or lignite briquettes. Greywolf has also separately acquired coal permits near Buller, covering about 5000ha. "We [Greywolf] are paving the way for Qinghua. They are the one with the [financial] power behind them," Mr Lancaster said. Qinghua Group bosses have visited Central Otago, the West Coast and Marlborough in recent weeks looking at coal seam gas for electricity generation, hard-coking coal deposits with a view to building a steel mill, and lignite for petrochemical conversion. Chartered flights across the South Island have included meeting several southern mayors and visits to mine sites, Mr Lancaster said.The process is already underway and yes they would have to get Overseas Investment Office approval and would be compliant with the Resource Management Act, and all regulations applicable to mining in New Zealand but we have heard brownlee say that "we are open for business" and we know how money-hungry these politicians are. Pesky regulations won't get in their way only the people can stop them.
In many countries the indigenous people are at the forefront of opposing mining - I know many individual maori who are also opposed to this but I'd love some iwi to come out strong in defence of Papatūānuku.