Meeting to discuss coal mining plans

A public meeting in Dunedin tomorrow will debate what an organiser says is "one of the biggest environmental issues facing New Zealand" - the proposed expansion of coal mining in Eastern Southland and South Otago.

Former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons would give a presentation and lead a discussion about how people could get involved in opposing mining plans, Coal Action Network Aotearoa Dunedin spokeswoman Bell Murphy said yesterday.

"This is about awareness raising and rallying people to action if needed ... We are not organising any specific protests at the moment."

An estimated 15 billion tonnes of lignite - a soft, low-grade coal - lies beneath Eastern Southland and South Otago.

Solid Energy has applied to the Gore District Council for resource consent to build a $25 million plant to convert lignite into high-energy briquettes, and is also considering lignite-to-transport fuel and lignite-to-urea fertiliser technologies.

A survey carried out by Venture Southland last year showed 70% of respondents were supportive of more lignite being mined because it would create jobs and benefit the local economy. But 27% raised concerns about air and water pollution and 22% were concerned about environmental damage.

The meeting will be held in the Archway 3 Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, at 6.30pm.


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