I’m increasingly concerned about the proposed open-cast mine on the Denniston Plateau and also the Crown Minerals (Permitting Crown Land) Bill. That bill has seriously eroded the protection from mining that we give our most protected land. That Bill allows decisions on access to conservation land for mining to be made by the Minister of Conservation, as well as the Minister of Energy and Resources and that a economic benefits test be included in the evaluation. This is important because of the proposed Escarpment Mine Project on the Denniston Plateau. That’s an open-cast mine on a unique, fragile ecosystem with the devastation accepted from both sides of the argument. This ecosystem was assessed recently in a BioBlitz by Forest and Bird, and over a weekend 505 species were catalogued, including a new discovery of a moth and 77 species of insects. We just don’t find this ecosystem intact any where else – it is unique. The mine will dig up 6 million tonnes of high quality coal for export. That’s 12 million tonnes of CO2 spewed into the atmosphere when it’s burnt. The Environment Court and The High Court have both agreed that the effects of coal on climate change cannot be considered under the Resource Management Act and the appeal to the Appeal Court is pivotal to putting the brakes on this insanity of a mine.
We can’t pin any hopes on the courts I suspect – no it is going to be up to people power, it is us that will stop them. What about the Department of Conservation aren’t they working to protect the Plateau? Their submission to the RMA was neutral, neither for nor against. But a Department of Conservation briefing paper to the Minister, released under the Official Information Act, says "The entire Denniston Plateau lies within the "West Coast Kawatiri Place" and is identified as a "Priority Site for Biodiversity Management. It is also described as a nationally outstanding landscape…". This landscape will be permanently altered by the mine and overburden dumps and this has the effect of, “leaving post rehabilitation in the vicinity of 75% of the altered landscape unrevegetated” The briefing paper also describes how the “current ecological integrity” of the Denniston Plateau will experience “profound change” including the increased exposure of acid forming rock which would,” likely create a far more significant acid mine drainage problem”.
They all know what will happen and they don’t care because of the supposed economic benefits but they are all illusion. They admit that at the moment the market for coal has slumped, they talk about 400 jobs – that’s the same number of workers recently dumped when the Spring Creek mine closed down so there are no new jobs. They base their big payoff on imaginary future scenarios that don’t consider any macro or micro event that could affect the maximum potential money (assuming everything goes exactly right), and their future predictions are junk, fallacy. Funny that the opponents to this mine have facts - abundant facts. Facts like the inevitable damage the mine will cause, the 21 identified inconsistencies between the Resource Management Act and proposed mine showing adverse effects on the environment that are more than minor. Facts like inconsistencies between the stated objectives within local, regional and national planning documents and the activities of this mine. These are FACTS. The opposite of the wishes and hopes of the economic growth fantasists, and they won’t change their minds, no. Their minds are made up. But they need the acquiescence of the people to do it. They can only do it if we let them.
For another brilliant post on this subject matter please read Claire Browning at Pundit - she writes so well and she hits every nail on the head.