Bill fixes flaws in regulation

1 July 2024

A clumsy attempt to stop coal mining in the face of continuing demand should be eliminated in the Government’s first bill to fix the Resource Management Act (RMA), says Straterra chief executive, Josie Vidal.

“In our submission on the Resource Management (Freshwater and Other Matters) Amendment Bill we support aligning the consenting pathway for coal mining with other mineral extraction, as it fixes a major flaw in the existing regulations,” Vidal says.

“Straterra has been clear in our view that an arbitrary 2030 end-date for non-coking coal, and the prohibition on new coal mining which disturbs a wetland or significant natural area, as provided for in the national direction instruments to be amended, is both an inappropriate use of biodiversity and freshwater policy and, fundamentally poor policy.  There is no place for these additional restrictions on coal mining over and above other mineral extraction and land use activities.

“The wetland and biodiversity regulations should be about addressing the effects of activities, which depend on the mining method, not the type of mineral being extracted.

“The reality is there is still a need for coal, both in New Zealand and globally. This will continue until there are accessible, affordable, readily available alternatives for a world with increasing demand for electricity and technology. The use of artificial intelligence (AI), for example, is driving an expansion of electricity use, particularly in the United States.

“We mine an estimated 2.6 million tonnes of coal annually for both domestic use and for export, all from open cast mines.

“We export about half of that, primarily to Japan, South Korea, China and India. Virtually all of this is used to make steel. Coal remains essential to steel production and New Zealand coal has sought after properties, such as low sulphur and ash content.

“Domestically, coal is used in electricity generation; steel making; cement and lime manufacture; industrial process heat for food processing and other manufacturing; and heating, including for schools and hospitals.

“Our transition away from fossils fuels must be done in a way that does not compromise New Zealand’s energy security or directly increase emissions globally.

“Around the world it is being acknowledged that coal and other fossil fuels need to be retained as back up fuel for renewable generation for longer than envisaged. The lights need to stay on.

“It is important to note that mining in New Zealand is done to the highest standards of health and safety, with well-regulated employment conditions, and stringent environmental protections. This is not the case everywhere in the world.”

Straterra is the industry association representing New Zealand’s minerals and mining sector.

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