Letter: Lignite mining

Last updated 12:47 18/01/2013

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OPINION: The other day I found stuffed away in a bookcase an old Solid Energy Project Status Report put out by Don Elder in the Newslink of June 11, 2009.

He reports there that by then Solid Energy had access to 1.35 billion tonnes of lignite, enough to create about 170 billion litres of diesel.

Perhaps it could, but Solid Energy has always claimed it would flit lightly over the land, never more than a farm or two temporarily out of production before coming back better than new. How does this scale of mining fit these figures?

Well, we know (because it is published) that the three lignite fields of interest to Solid Energy (Croydon, Mataura and Waimumu) hold an estimated 2.820 billion tonnes of lignite down to 200m, which in this area is about 100m below sea level.

Working arithmetically, Solid Energy has about half the resource in these fields, so to get their tally would need to mine down for about 100m (sea level).

Can you mine and then restore delicately to that depth ? I doubt it, particularly if, as was intended, you are now part of an overseas-owned corporate giant not much interested in New Zealand.

And all for 30c/tonne royalty - to the Government, not Southland. Our reward is a new water wonderland where once there were farms, and just when climate change starts to make good farmland that much more valuable.

JOHN PUREY-CUST
Gore

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- The Southland Times

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