Coromandel – Keep Fighting

Coromandel – Keep Fighting

The holiday home our daughter-in-law booked for us all to stay in just outside Kuaotunu Waikato on the Coromandel Peninsular is absolutely great and the views across a landscape of forests is equally as brilliant.

Right – that’s the “lets admire the New Zealand countryside” out of the way for this blog – so now to the main topic – Mining.

The Coromandel first came to prominence as a mining area and especially to the mining of gold that led to a gold rush in the 1800’s.

Mining has long gone leaving behind an area of outstanding natural beauty in which nature (with the assistance of a very forward thinking man which is to be the subject of another story) has taken back hiding the scars left behind from mining.

So it was something of a surprise as we were driving along the highway to see homemade signs saying “No Mining” and “Mining is Toxic” especially in New Zealand who pride themselves as a nation on their approach to protecting the environment.

Even at the entrance to the house we were staying in there was a sign saying ‘No Mining Company Access’.

As a visitor I as many would I suppose just read the signs and moved on dismissing them from my mind or at least I would have until when visiting a local cafe called Luke’s (I highly recommend their coffee, cake and pizza) there was a leaflet on each table discussing the proposal to re-introduce coal mining on the Coromandel.

Even before reading the leaflet my first thought was “are you f****** crazy, why would you”

In a nutshell…..

and this is where I’m going to digress a little because whilst those who are advocating mining claim that it will have a very limited impact on the environment and especially if it is deep long wall mining the impact of not reintroducing mining is available to be seen on the beach across the road from the cafe.

Not only is the beach fantastic and yes I took my first swim in the ocean of 2019 it is also the home to a dozen pair of nesting New Zealand Dotterels who if you didn’t know (and why would you) are an endangered species.

Now I know all about the philosophical argument that isn’t it acceptable if the price of mankind’s survival is the extinction of other species to which after giving it some degree of thought my only response appears to be “bollocks”.

Not very scientific I know but nevertheless in my opinion the only appropriate response.

It was a privilege to watch the dotterels scurrying about on the beach in their natural environment and one that millions will never get to see.

Surely for that and that alone anything that may impact on their survival should be opposed.

Which bring me back to the proposal to re-introduce mining into the Coromandel.

I’m sure there will be those who will say “what has it got to do with you, you don’t live here, it wont affect you so bugger off and keep your opinions to yourself “.

And in many ways they are right but I refer to my earlier statement about mankind’s survival – namely- bollocks.

I can go back to the 10th August 1964 when having left school two weeks earlier I started work as an apprentice electrician at Silverwood Colliery in South Yorkshire.

To cut a long story short..

The shaft to the lowest Barnsley coal seam was over 1000 feet, the furthest coal face was North 10 which was eight miles from the pit bottom and which was reached via a Diesel engine pulling trucks called a paddy wagon and then the last mile on foot.

To prevent the coal face roof falling in as the coal was cut and the coal face advanced we used hydraulic pit props that were designed to withstand a pressure of 25 tons per square inch and which were moved only once a series 10 x 10 foot square dry stone rock from floor to roof (called packs) had been built along the length of the coal face from the displaced debris.

For a better explanation you may have to visit a library or I suppose in the modern world google it.

The point of explaining this is that whatever mining advocates tell you I can guarantee that just as in Boyles Law gas expands to fill the void then eventually the void underground created by removing vast quantities of rock and minerals will eventually be filled by the earth above.

The result is subsidence and in the area of South Yorkshire it had a major impact on the houses.

Now I know the density of housing on the Coromandel isn’t as great as in the north of England or in Wales where the major centres of coal mining were situated but importantly in my view any subsidence would impact on the delicate environment and especially on the root systems of the now protected kauri trees.

And even if you put the environmental arguments aside how will coal mining on the Coromandel improve the New Zealand economy?

New Zealand don’t appear to be in any great hurry to build coal powered powered station anywhere in the country so presumably they would have to export it.

The question is to whom?

There is no way that I can see the scale of the proposals would match that of coal mining in Europe or in China so there is no way it could be competitively priced against other producers.

I did say that on this visit to this wonderful country rather than as before eulogise about how great it was I’d be looking at the other aspects of this great nation.

Well just recently the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden gave a speech in which she stated that the health of the nation is more than the economy.

It is a sentiment I would whole heartedly agree with and is why I hope the residents of the Cormandel and those who support them will keep fighting until the proposals to bring mining back to the region are taken off of the table.