The future of coal mining

At the moment, workers at the Pike River Coal mine are using a jet machine to pump CO2 into the mine to put out the fire. Then they will put a cover over the entrance. When the mine is cool and all poisonous gases have gone, rescuers will enter the mine to recover the bodies. This could take a few weeks.

But will the mine reopen in the future? It will stay closed at least until after the Royal Commission of Inquiry and that could take a year. Meanwhile, what will happen to the miners who were not working that afternoon and now have no work?

If the Pike River coal mine closes forever, this will make a big difference to the economy of the West Coast. This is a fairly new mine which opened two years ago and started shipping coal to India this year. The company hoped to export 1m tonnes of coal each year for at least 18 years. The price for coking coal has reached US$225 a tonne recently, much more than Pike River expected. The future was looking good.

It cost the company $280m to build the mine and a lot of that money went into the West Coast economy. The mine employed 180 men. Some experienced miners were paid a salary of around $80,000. This is a big salary. Spending by workers probably adds about $30m to the economy of the West Coast.

The West Coast has had a problem with unemployment in the past. There were not enough jobs. Tourism does provide some jobs as visitors come to enjoy the native rain forest, mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. However, many jobs in tourism are low paid ones like restaurant work. There is a lot of coal on the West Coast and two other underground mines near Greymouth. Mining is an important industry for the future economy of the West Coast.

1. New Zealand has a lot of coal. Most of our electricity is produced by clean energy – hydro or geo-thermal – not from coal. Do you think New Zealand should export coal for other countries to produce greenhouse gases?

2. Some mines are not underground. They are opencast. However, Pike River coal is in a National Park and an opencast mine was not allowed. What are the problems with opencast mining? What are the benefits?

One Comments

  1. It is stupid to be bullied by the Greenies. go ahead and get the resources from wherever instead of being a second rate country.
    You can not see where a lot of mining has been done as the cosmetic clean up has in most cases improved the area. The Govt. has to show some guts and get a life by moving forward and stop dithering.

    Dave m

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