Campaigners plan anti-mining festival

"World's dirtiest" lignite coal. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
"World's dirtiest" lignite coal. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
More than 100 climate-change campaigners from around the country will gather near Mataura from tomorrow to support Southlanders concerned about the potential impacts of lignite mining on their communities.

The "Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival," organised by Coal Action Network Aotearoa, will begin tomorrow evening, and run until Monday morning, with an open day for the public at the Mataura Community Centre on Sunday.

Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesman Tim Jones said the festival combined music, local field trips and children's entertainment with workshops on strategy and tactics for ensuring that the lignite stayed in the ground, including training in non-violent action.

"Lignite coal is the world's dirtiest, lowest-value fossil fuel, and this project would increase our greenhouse gas emissions massively, at a time when we need to be decreasing them," Mr Jones said.

"It is extraordinary that Solid Energy has been allowed to start this project under a consent system that doesn't have to take the emissions into account. We need to keep the coal in the hole if we want our children to inherit a liveable planet."

The event will take place on Craig Rd, south of Mataura at the farm of Mike Dumbar, near the site of Solid Energy's briquetting demonstration plant.

The plant will process about 148,000 tonnes of low-grade lignite coal from a nearby mine annually, turning it into 90,000 tonnes of higher-quality briquettes suitable for fuel for households and industries. A further 15,000 tonnes of lignite will be required annually to fire its on-site boiler.

The coal would be transported to the plant from the New Vale mine, near Waimumu.

The briquette plant is the first of three projects planned for lignite from the Waimumu, Croydon and Mataura areas.

Mr Jones said people attending the festival would be engaging with local people in a day of discussion at the Mataura hall where there would be speakers on lignite and the economy; lignite and health; and lignite and climate.

A Green Party MP is making a 550km solo bike ride to Southland to highlight changes she thinks should be made to the country's transport system and to support the anti-lignite festival. Julie Anne Genter, who is also the party's transport spokeswoman, left Christchurch for Mataura on Sunday, headed for Ashburton.

Her ride ends in Gore tomorrow, in time for the festival.

Ms Genter, who was elected to Parliament for the first time in November, is blogging about the journey, and was quick to relay the difficulties, reporting that the first day had been "tougher than expected".

"There is nothing quite so frustrating as cycling directly into a headwind while staring at the flat, straight path that stretches for miles in front of you. I inched along, the wind roaring in my ears, for well over 2 [sic] hours," she wrote.

The MP is expected to reach Waihola or even Balclutha this evening


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