14 December 2009

A Coal Mine in Our Backyard

Strip mine for lignite at Garzweiler near K├ÂlnImage via Wikipedia

New Zealand's state owned coal producer, Solid Energy, and fertiliser company Ravensdown are currently investigating the building of a lignite to urea plant in Mataura's backyard. Solid Energy says the urea plant could be the foundation of a New Zealand capability in coal gasification technology, which could also be used to produce diesel domestically.

Solid Energy has been on a buying spree over the last couple of years - buying up farms in the area that sit over the extensive lignite deposits (some 8 billion tonnes) and pushing up land prices.

So far, the Gore District Council has shown unreserved enthusiasm for the idea and any publicity has carefully avoided the environmental impact whilst highlighting the economic benefits for the area and the rest of the country.

For those of us that live nearby the proposed site, should it go ahead, any economic benefits will be offset by the fumes, noise, air and water pollution and increased traffic caused by the mine and urea plant.

The proposed 'hole' would be 5km long by 2km wide and to a depth of 100m (that's 40m below sea level!). It is expected to move steadily across 40km of countryside. The picture below shows the township of Mataura alongside a rectangle 5km by 2km - it shows the scale of the mine, but is not an indication of position.

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