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Coal mining brings no prosperity to communities

Coal mining brings no prosperity to communities

Wellington – 22 May 2014-- Coal mining and poor communities go hand in hand in New Zealand, according to new research by the Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

New Zealand’s coal mining communities generally have fewer full time jobs and lower per capita income than their surrounding region or district, says the new research, in the network’s “Jobs After Coal” report released today.

The report outlines ways in which communities can transition away from coal to new sources of prosperity and jobs as international markets and climate change concerns lead the phase out of coal.

“Coal is a boom and bust industry. When the bust comes, coal mining communities have been left with no support – except for plans for more boom and bust coal mines,” said one of the report’s lead authors, Jeanette Fitzsimons.

“Our research shows there are only 1259 jobs in coal mining in New Zealand. The Government continues to go on about the need for coal mining jobs, pushing coal as a job creator, yet it barely blinks at the nearly 40,000 jobs lost in manufacturing in the five years to 2012.”

Plummeting coal prices caused by an oversupply in the market, along with China’s moves to shut steel mills and move to recycling scrap metal, meant that the New Zealand coal industry was unlikely to recover any time soon.

“Talk of a carbon bubble is now gaining traction as people begin to understand the idea that we have only a small ‘budget’ of carbon we can afford to emit to keep global warming below two degrees C.

“Coal is a sunset industry, and fossil fuel investments will be left as stranded assets. Indeed, we could pretty much consider Solid Energy as a ‘stranded asset’ these days, with banks forced to back a company that will continue to fail under the ongoing ‘perfect storm’ of low prices and the high dollar.”

Jobs After Coal sets out many alternatives to mining, especially in renewable energy and an expanded use of wood. Mining skills are applicable over a wide range of different industries. However, this transition will not happen without. planning, leadership, resources, and involvement of the whole community.

Rosemary Penwarden, another of the lead authors, said:

“We have to draw a line in the sand for the end of coal in New Zealand, then plan for the day that this happens. Involve the whole community and plan a transition that doesn’t dump people out of jobs overnight like the coal industry has done in recent years.”

“The sooner we prepare for a future where mining towns can determine their own paths without dependence on the vagaries of a dying industry, the better,” said Ms Penwarden.


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