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Students Occupy Proposed Coal Mining Site

13th April, 2004, Denniston

Media Release

Students Occupy Proposed Coal Mining Site

A group of people from around the country, including students from Massey, Otago and Victoria Universities, announced today that they are occupying land earmarked for open-cast coal mining at Happy Valley in the upper Waimangaroa Valley, northeast of Westport. State owned enterprise Solid Energy is planning an open-cast mine in the area adjacent to the massive polluting Stockton Mine.

"Open-cast mining is one of the most destructive forms of mining as it involves the complete devastation of vegetation, soils, and habitat," Jo McVeagh, a spokesperson for the group, said.

"Our week-long occupation sends a clear message to business leaders and politicians that, as New Zealanders, we will not allow our natural heritage to be ruined to satisfy the business sector's greed," she said..

"Solid Energy's nearby Stockton Mine is a complete environmental disaster, with hundreds of hectares of rock dumps generating highly acidic mine drainage. This is polluting local rivers with toxic heavy metals," ecologist Rob Cadmus said.

"The damage from the nearby mine at Stockton has to be seen to be believed," he said.

Solid Energy has applied for resource consents to produce two huge open-cast pits that will cover 105 ha of the 256 ha site. Solid Energy aims to extract 500,000 tonnes of coal each year for ten years, with plans to export most of the coal.

"The upper Waimangaroa is of significant natural value. The area is home to many threatened bird species including roa (great spotted kiwi), kaka, and western weka. Furthermore, the coal plateau is the only place where the threatened endemic giant land snail Powelliphanta patrickensis is found," zoologist Jack Mace said.

"The government is making a mockery of its commitment to addressing climate change by mining one of the worst greenhouse gas-producing fuel. How can the government keep a straight face when talking about the Kyoto Protocol?" spokesperson Jonathan Oosterman said.

"We are at a crucial point in the development of New Zealand's future energy strategy. A continued reliance on fossil fuels directly contradicts New Zealand's clean, green image," he said.


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