350 Aotearoa welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to Environment Canterbury and Selwyn District Council regarding the proposed expansion of the Canterbury Coal Mine owned and operated by Bathurst Resources Limited.

Due to the high risk an extension of the mine facilitated by the granting of these consents would pose to our climate, 350 Aotearoa opposes each of these applications.

The consents sought by Bathurst Resources Limited would grant the company permission to expand its open-cut coal mining operations near Coaldale by 18 hectares and extend the life of the mine an additional 13 years from 2022 until 2035. This expansion and the increased carbon emissions that would result from extending mine operations poses an unacceptable risk to our climate and our future.

The science is clear that if we are to have any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, we must limit our carbon emissions to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees. The mining and combustion of fossil fuels like coal are major contributors to global carbon emissions. Thus, serious efforts to keep climate change to under 1.5 degrees acknowledge not only the need to no longer open new fossil fuel projects but also to keep known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

As Environment Canterbury has itself acknowledged in its 2019 Declaration of a Climate Emergency, the science on climate change is “irrefutable” and there is an “urgent need to address climate change for the benefit of current and future generations.”1 Granting consents that would allow the expansion of this coal mine directly contradicts this need and the intent of the Council’s own declaration. We can meaningfully address climate change by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, not enabling companies like Bathurst Resources Limited to extend the life of mines like the Canterbury Coal Mine. This is particularly pertinent given that Bathurst Resources Limited have no publicly available climate change policy or plan to reduce carbon emissions in line with the government’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Any fossil fuel company that does not meaningfully acknowledge its role in reducing carbon emissions should not be given permission to expand its operations.

350 Aotearoa also notes that 90% of the coal mined by Bathurst Resources Limited is being used domestically by local dairy companies, Fonterra and Synlait, whose operations have historically depended on coal-fired boilers to process milk.2 Both companies have recently made commitments to not build new coal-fired boilers, with Fonterra going one step further and announcing a phase-out of all coal power to dry milk following a campaign by grassroots community groups across New Zealand including 350 Aotearoa.3 With its major customers moving to limit the amount of coal they consume in response to climate change, it seems counterintuitive that these consents be granted at a time when fossil fuel operations should be scaling back rather than expanding as Bathurst Resources Limited is proposing to do.

While potential climate impacts currently do not constitute sufficient grounds to deny an application under the Resource Management Act (RMA), 350 Aotearoa also wishes to point out that this is currently subject to review and may soon be revised in line with the commitments made by the central government under the Climate Change Response (Zero-Carbon) Amendment Act 2019. Addressing climate change should not only be the responsibility of the central government – all levels of government must be cognisant of risks to our climate when making decisions which will set us on a certain course for decades to come. We urge those reviewing Bathurst Resources Limited’s application to be proactive in considering the potential climate impacts of expanding this mine and their responsibility to protect our communities and our whenua, for current and future generations.

350 Aotearoa, therefore, opposes each of the resource consent applications made by Bathurst Resources Limited while would facilitate the overall extension of the mine and encourages Environment Canterbury and Selwyn District Council to take into account consideration of the significant climate and environmental risks the expansion of this mine may have.

1 Environment Canterbury (2019), Environment Canterbury declares climate emergency, https://www.ecan.govt.nz/get-involved/news-and-events/2019/environment-canterbury-declares-climate-emergency/
2 Kenny, Lee (2020), Canterbury Coal Mine wants to expand by 18 hectares, published 8 May 2020, https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/121454425/canterbury-coal-mine-wants-to-expand-by-18-hectares
3 350 Aotearoa (2019), Press release: Win! Fonterra commits to no new coal boilers, published 18 July 2019, https://350.org.nz/press-release-win-fonterra-commits-to-no-new-coal-boilers/

Make your own submission here by Monday 18th May.

Here’s a handy submission guide written by our friends at Coal Action Network Aotearoa.