Mining Lignite

Lignite is low grade coal which contains more moisture than high grade coal and is dirty to burn. Southland has ten areas with lignite. Solid Energy, which is a government company, plans to mine this lignite. The company has plans to build a $25m briquette factory near Mataura in Southland to make this low energy, high moisture coal into high energy, low moisture briquettes (like bricks). Briquettes could be used for heating houses and factories.

Solid Energy also plans to use the lignite to make fertilizer for the land and diesel for trucks. The company believes there is more than 6 billion tonnes of useful lignite in Southland.

Local people held a protest at Mataura this weekend. They called it “Keep the Coal in the Hole”. About 300 people attended today. They are worried about greenhouse gases, the environment and jobs. They say that rich people do not live near mines, only poor people. Mining coal does not provide well paid jobs.

Solid Energy, however, says that mining pays well. The company also plans to take care of the environment and make the land attractive when the mining is finished. They are also looking at the technology for carbon capture, keeping the carbon in the ground.


mining – a coal mine can be underground or an open mine
moisture – water
fertilizer – plant food
attractive – look good
capture – keep it, save it


New Zealand imports most of its oil for transport. If lignite can be used for diesel, this would save the country a lot of money. On the other hand, there are disadvantages to mining lignite. Do you believe it is a good idea to mine lignite?

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