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Dismal decision on Cypress mine

26 May 2005 - Christchurch

Dismal decision on Cypress mine

The Environment Court's decision on Solid Energy's proposed Cypress open cast coal mine is a dismal one for conservation, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

The Environment Court released its decision today declining appeals by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Buller Conservation Group and Te Runanga of Ngati Waewae against the proposed mine.

"The Court has relied heavily on Solid Energy's promises to be a good environmental manager, but we don't share the Court's confidence in Solid Energy. The SOE has a track record of causing severe environmental damage and making promises that it doesn't keep," said Forest and Bird field officer Eugenie Sage.

"Implementing the consent conditions relies on comprehensive monitoring and enforcement by the West Coast Regional Council and the Buller District Council, which given the Councils' scant resources and limited staff is unlikely.

"The Cypress mine highlights the huge environmental cost and unsustainability of coal mining. It involves destroying the habitat of endangered species found only in New Zealand and polluting local rivers, to provide jobs for imported overseas coal miners, and coking coal for Japanese and Korean steel mills that exacerbate climate change.

"The mine will destroy habitat used by 13 threatened species, including great spotted kiwi and the endemic land snail Powelliphanta "patrickensis." It will create a 250 ha scar in the distinctive landscape of the Upper Waimangaroa Valley with its mosaic of rock pavements, wetlands, and stunted vegetation," Ms Sage said.

"The decision demonstrates the failure of the Resource Management Act to protect endangered species. The Court accepted that the mine footprint contains great spotted kiwi and around 10 % of the estimated population of Powelliphanta "patrickensis."

"Promises of predator control over 1000 ha for 20-30 years cannot compensate for the permanent loss of threatened species habitat, and the high pollution risk of acid mine drainage from millions of tonnes of waste rock," Ms Sage said.

"The SOE's proposals to move the land snails to a 17 ha cage, potentially shift kiwi to a new site, dig up and then re-establish 12 ha of red tussock wetlands are also unproven and uncertain of success."

Forest and Bird is concerned that the Cypress mine is the start of a more extensive mining in the Waimangaroa Valley.

The Court recognised the element of uncertainty in whether Solid Energy's plans for predator control and relocating Powelliphanta "patrickensis" would work. The Court noted that "if it cannot be established that the species can be enhanced through this type of fauna plan, it appears unlikely that a further consent would be granted."

Notes for media: Solid Energy's poor environmental record

In February 2005 Solid Energy CEO, Don Elder promised Buller Conservation Group (BCG) and Ngakawau Riverwatch that the SOE would not mine on a skyline ridge (Mt Augustus to Rockies (above Granity) that is a prominent landscape feature in coastal Buller, during the next three months.

Less than a month later the promise was broken. BCG and Forest and Bird members discovered fresh mining on the ridgeline on 21 March.

Solid Energy's Strongman mine near Greymouth has a history of severe environmental damage. In late 2002 there were giant landslips at Ten Mile Creek caused by poor mining practices. There have been uncontrolled surface fires and ground instability and vegetation damage in the Nine Mile Valley from underground mining at Strongman in the mid 1990s.

The SOE's Stockton mine is responsible for gross pollution of the Ngakawau River to the extent that white-baiters caught almost nothing last season and locals are reluctant to swim in its contaminated waters.


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