Major opposition to lignite (brown coal) showed up in the form of a protest in Southland, New Zealand as part of the “Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival”. The protestors were against a project to mine lignite near Mataura by state owned company Solid Energy.
More than 100 people camped out on a farm that bordered the land owned by Solid Energy. The farm is owned by a farmer who refused to sell his land to the company when it bought up all the land surrounding his. The company has acquired about 4,000 hectares of land in the region to develop the lignite mine.
The farmer, Mike Dumbar said that it was going to affect the environment and the local population in terms of degradation to their environment, coal, dust, and noise. It will create an environment in which they will not want to live in. People will move away and it will become a rural slum, he added.
At the Mataura Community Center talks were given by Sid Plant, a Queensland farmer who lived next to an opencast mine and Russell Tregonning, a surgeon concerned about the effects of mining on health. Environmental scientists Peter Barrett, of Victoria University and Shannon Page, of Lincoln University also highlighted their concerns over the mining
The protestors felt that the environmental impact of the project far outweighed the benefits. In fact the plans of the company to turn the lignite into higher quality briquettes would raise the carbon emissions of the country by nearly 20%.
Solid Energy however says that the company mine would create jobs and make the nation less dependent on imports. They also said that they would be taking full responsibility under the emissions trading scheme for the increased carbon emissions from the lignite mining. They hope to begin production in June.