The industry group representing the NZ minerals sector mounts a vigorous defence of the benefits mining offers the country

Paparoa Range - site of the Pike River Coal Mine

By Chris Baker*

On TV3 recently, a debate was held on: “to mine or not to mine” in New Zealand.

It was a strange framing of the issue because mining is essential to life - you either grow it or you dig it. 

Led by TV presenter Guyon Espiner, the anti-mining team on The Vote argued that New Zealand does not need more mining, and should transition to a green economy instead. The main concern for these debaters was climate change.

I have news for Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman, Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie, and Greenpeace NZ executive director Bunny MacDiarmid - the green economy will require more mining, not less.

One of the problems with some “green” technologies, e.g., wind and solar to generate electricity, is that they are low grade, or low intensity.

That means a lot in infrastructure is required for each unit of energy produced, compared to higher-intensity energy sources such as fossil fuels, or nuclear.

Of course, wind and solar have an important role because the fuel itself is free.

French academics Olivier Vidal, Bruno Goffé and Nicholas Arndt reported in the November 2013 issue of the international journal Nature Geoscience: “Humankind faces a vicious circle: a shift to renewable energy will replace one non-renewable resource (fossil fuel) with another (metals and minerals).”

For an equivalent installed capacity, solar and wind facilities require up to 15 times more concrete, 90 times more aluminium, and 50 times more iron, copper and glass than fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) projects that wind and solar energy, globally, will rise from the current 400 terawatt-hours to 12,000 TWh in 2035, and 25,000 TWh in 2050.

According to Vidal, Goffé and Arndt, those two uses alone will require 3200 million tonnes of steel, 310 Mt of aluminium, 40 Mt of copper, 800 Mt of glass, and 20 billion tonnes of concrete - to say nothing of rare earth elements, and many other metals, including gold, silver and platinum. To provide this amount of material will require a 5-18% annual increase in global mining production over the next 40 years.

These numbers are truly staggering. To make any sense of them, consider that it would take centuries for New Zealand to produce the iron ore (and the coal) to make the steel, even with an expansion into offshore ironsands mining.

At issue for the world is where these metals are going to come from – for the uses identified above, and for all the other uses to which they will be put in coming decades. (Alternatively or in addition, we must ask which technologies will allow us to achieve the same outcomes, while consuming less.)

Mining can only be done where there are minerals in economic concentrations. These deposits are getting harder to find, as the more easily-accessible ones have already been extracted. Mining technologies are advancing correspondingly: to deal with more complex geology and mineralogy; and to manage costs when mining at greater depths, and lower ore grades.

New Zealand is of interest here because the greatest demand for metals and commodities is global, and driven mostly by growth in the developing countries, and we have reasonable minerals potential. We also have a resource management regime that is the envy of many nations, with improvements being made to our workplace health and safety regime, and our country offers a great lifestyle.

It is, surely, far better to mine in New Zealand than in those parts of the world where the rule of law does not apply.

A case in point is the rare earth elements and other metals being extracted from forced-labour mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and like parts of the world. Moves are afoot for global electronics manufacturers to move away from sourcing “conflict metals”.

New Zealand will never be a large mineral producer on a global scale, but we have coal, iron (iron sands) gold, phosphate and a number of other mineral products that have an important role as globally we move to a more sustainable economy. If we continue to develop these, we can earn wealth and wellbeing in the bargain.

Consider: one-third of household income on the West Coast is earned from mining, off a footprint of 14km2 compared to the region’s total area of 23,000km2. No other land-use earns anywhere near the same wealth per hectare as mining does. Miners earn on average double the national average wage. Imagine if that was expanded to the Waikato, Southland, Otago and Northland.

There are several challenges to resolve to advance this opportunity. They include access to resources, removal of bureaucratic complexity that discourages investment, and better administration of regulation.

Public concern over mining is an issue – including fears raised over mercury poisoning in Northland, species being driven extinct at Denniston, fisheries affected by seabed mining, the climate affected by coal mining.

Logically, for mining to continue in New Zealand, we as an industry need to address those concerns. We are heartened by robust opinion polls that demonstrate more than 80 percent public support for resource development, provided locals are employed, most of the money stays in New Zealand, and the environment is managed. We say all of that is the case.

Environmental management is core business for any responsible mining business, and it is best-practice to engage early with stakeholders on projects.

Even if mining in New Zealand trebled in investment on the ground, and in output, the total footprint on land would still be less than that of many individual high country stations, or the annual area of forestry harvest. At the same time New Zealand would be adding billions of dollars a year to the economy.

In answer to the question posed at the beginning – we need to mine more for a greener economy.


Chris Baker is the chief executive of Straterra, the industry group representing the NZ minerals sector.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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I watched the program and got really annoyed .
Of course we need mining, which can be done with appropriate regulation to ensure we dont wreck the environment .
This ideologically driven fear-mongering nonsense around the environment by the Greens and the lunatic fringe ,  is without foundation .

Got to have the mining - but maybe the environmentalists have a different agenda.

I thought your mate Colin Craig was into conspiracy theories.  Have you heard the one about global warming, aparently it's a left wing conspiracy to force limits on free markets.  

Funny Peak Everything......I just knew someone on this site would take a bite.......
I don't know Colin Craig.........perhaps he has an open mind and is prepared to take on new/other information and mull it over......hardly see that as a fault.......
I have noticed that people who have their minds set in concrete have a far more difficult time in accepting new information which blows the lid off their beliefs..

Well of course we can be open minded about anything as long as it doesn't effect continual economic growth and house prices.   

This is a spin-doctor. Let's get that straight. Paid (but not so much, given where Solid Energy is at) to hype.
But you can smell the fear. He has done the same homework I've done, and knows that we are in the shyte. You need energy - concentrated energy - to mine, and that energy is itself mined, and well down the EROEI track it is too.
Will we go to renewable energy? Yes. Either by running out of fossil options (decades at most) or by choice. Will it run BAU? No. And we've pointed that out for a long time. Efficiencies/powerdown are the only options - oh, of course there's war.
The stupidity of the 'making billions' comment - and I have tackled Baker about this so he can't plead ignorance - is that by the time you've finished, there's nothing to buy. Actually, the moment you get past the Gaussian peak, your growth-based fiscal system is history. You could probably check whetyher we had reached that point, by seeing whether they'd had to play dead-end games like quantitive easing.
You can't, of course, have mining without 'wrecking the environment'. That's delusional. You are depleting a resource, using another up to do so. That's degradation - unsustainable degradation - even with a perfectly-maintained site. Also, if your 'wellbeing' depends on mining, you're doomed. In a word, it's unsustainable. The only question of things unsustainable is 'when'? And the answer - given exponential growth - is 'sooner than you think'.
Baker has no answer to sequestration either, I'll bet. I can't remember whether our conversation covered that - I guess he's a CC denier? Denniston was an example of the fatal flaw in our RMA. Brundtland didn't nail it, even before the Nats watered it down.
I remember he used the nothing-word - 'vibrant'.   :)   I came away thinking 'sleaze'.

PDK avers that "You can't, of course, have mining without 'wrecking the environment'. That's delusional."
Well, better tell the chaps and chapesses at the Great Orme Copper Mine in North Wales, which has been going, on and off, for the last 3,500 years.  Just next to Llandudno (klan-deed-noh), which last time I visited, didn't look 'wrecked' ter me.  Except of course for the 72% dependence on Gubmint transfer payments which afflicts Wales, but I dinnae think one can blame the Mine fer that.
Or, indeed, the Levant tin/copper/silver mine in Cormwall, which ran out under the sea, at 350+ fathoms deep, and doesn't appear to have affected the Atlantic Ocean all that much.
Of course, no mining = no metals.
And that's the working definition of the Stone Age (which, of course, ended because they ran outta Stones).
Rather than the one-size-fits-all prescriptions handed down from lofty heights by Them As Wot Knows Better, I'd favour a moderate-mining approach.  Such as, I dare to suggest, we have right here.
We aren't like Germany, that Greenish country, which strip-mines lignite to feed the maws of its almost-one-third dependence on thermally generated electricity.
Moderation in all things, and I enjoy mah metals.....

I usually think of Waymad as a thinker.
But not this time.
Here's Prof Bartlett:

But we must note that:

Dumb growth destroys the environment.

Smart growth destroys the environment.

The difference is that smart growth destroys the environment with good taste.


So it's like buying a ticket on the TITANIC.

If you're smart you go first class

If you're dumb you go steerage.

Either way the result is the same.


so moderation is a delusion. Self-deception. Good luck with that.

Humankind faces a vicious circle: a shift to renewable energy will replace one non-renewable resource (fossil fuel) with another (metals and minerals).” For an equivalent installed capacity, solar and wind facilities require up to 15 times more concrete, 90 times more aluminium, and 50 times more iron, copper and glass than fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

That is of course assuming that the goal is to continue 'business as usual' in the future, and we are trying to replace our current energy output with renewables. We can't, and it's looking more likely that we will be forced to 'power-down' regardless of whether we want to or not.
The prudent thing would be to hedge our bets and prepare for a future with less energy to go around (renewables will be important for this), that way if the 'miracle energy source' fails to materialize we are at least somewhat prepared.

Doesnt add up does it mate?  So I assume you realise that we cant mine for ever, so at best we buy a bit of time, except you want it spent on BAU., happily growing just a bit longer. Sensible, not. Solution, not.
You are right on the materials use on wind and solar, but it seems you only want to point out their weaknesses when its suits. So a spin doctor clearly for a vested interest, I can but assume you have no trouble sleeping at night doing this, I would, I couldnt.
So we have the impossible to do, which cant be done, therefore the path is use a lot less and have a lot less ppl using it.  So some hard choices which with this spin you are attempting to put off trying to fool ppl that it will all be fine, just let us mine....
Think of our future generations, ie grow up please.

Roll on business as usual. Prepare for a future with MORE energy to go around. If the most intensively explored nation in the world could pull this out of its hat since 2007 how much spare capacity will be floating around once the rest of the world catches up?
"Powered by advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the production of domestic shale gas and oil has grown more than 50 percent annually since 2007. The shale boom could add as much as $690 billion a year to GDP and create up to 1.7 million jobs across the economy by 2020. The impact will extend to energy-intensive manufacturing industries and beyond. The United States now has the potential to reduce net energy imports to zero—but only if it can successfully address the associated environmental risks."
The "environment" is doing alright too.

EROEI? I don't know if you people are taking the piss?
Have a look at the graph that shows the number of wells required to be drilled to just keep supply constant.  Hmmm seem to be seeing that exponential growth all over the place!

Texas has doubled oil production in the last 29 months - I guess no one ever looked for oil there before. Cursed human ingenuity spoiling all the peak stuff.

Yes,  no sane person doubts there is still approximately half of  all oil ever found still in the ground.  The issue is in 2007 there were approx 200 oil wells in the Baken oil field producing approximately 100,000 barrels a day.  Today there are over 3,200 wells and production is 120,000 barrels a day so to increase 20,000 a barrels a day they needeed 3,000 more wells. 
We are not running out of oil but the oil we are finding is costing more energy to get out of the ground.  That oil reserve was not found recently it has been known for years but only now has the price of oil justified the gamble of going to get it.  
If the price of oil gets to high the economy tends to go back into recession.  The price of oil tends to drop and then it won't be economical to keep those wells open.  This is so frustrating, hopefully you are just winding me up.  
Its a shame you didn't at least look at my link may have given you food for thought.  

I had a look and I updated the leading chart for you. Nice trajectory.
I'm not winding you up. My eyes just glaze over when I reading all the doom and gloom. Price goes up for whatever reason, people innovate, price goes down/substition. Life goes on.
Oil is easy to export so price stay high as US takes advantage. Fracked gas is more difficult to export so price goes from $14 to $4.

Yeah I noticed that leading chart was a bit dated.  The key chart was the wells to production.  I'm not so much doom and gloom, more stop wasting the oil we have left on unsustainable growth and start using it to prepare for alternatives when it runs out.  

But the revenue is not wasted - it is invested in and R&D like the fast pyrolysis bio oil plant, cancer research, figuring out how to frack without fresh water etc. The market signals force us to innovate and create alternatives.

"Ineos' Grangemouth facility formerly sourced feedstock ethane from nearby North Sea gas fields. But with natgas liquids production falling here, the company is looking further afield for supply. The new import terminal will allow the company to bring in ethane from around the world.
And especially from America. The company said it intends to target imports of low-cost ethane from U.S. shale plays."
Now if only luddites in the UK got on with fracking their own vast shale resources they wouldn't need to import from innovative countries like the US... 

According to the EIA production from the Bakken is increasing 26,000 bpd month on month. Production will hit 1 million bpd next month. Your figures are wrong.

Hi littlte troll, try looking further in, its ugly.
You cant win against the Math of it.  Its really simple, but I guess not simple enough for some.

I can do maths. US gas prices have simply gone from $14 to $4 just when the US was building gas import facilities. The new abundance, unpredicted, allows export of gas to Europe etc. and creation of new industries and jobs in the US.  Then I read about the most exploited oil field, in the most exploited State now has extractable reserves, due to innovation, equal to the last 90 years production of oil and gas. Then I read they can frack gas in without using fresh water at all. It just gets better and better.
Quit the names and the condescension, it is so boring.

You need to look at the costs involved (water and energy and money) to do so.
There is more than enough information out there to enable you to take a balanced view, but you chose not to.
Tell you what put your money where your mouth is, if you think its so great invest in it.

Fracking has revived the Permian after years of flat output and could be used there for decades to come - so long as its water problem is solved.
Industry estimates say the Permian, which helped put the United States on the path to becoming the world's largest crude producer, has recoverable reserves that exceed all oil and gas produced there over the last 90 years, according to the Texas Railroad Commission.
Fracking Without Fresh Water

Peak wind - plenty of wind to harness.
Peak waves  - plenty of wave motion energy to harness. 
Peak Sun - oh no the sun is burning out! Still plenty of solar energy. 
The global warming / Peak oil thing  is just a racket to allow the UN & more taxation to rule our lives. 

Yeah watch out for those chemtrails

Sorry to spoil your party but to meet our 13TW need (at current consumption - will need to increase with population and lifestyle growth especially in India/China).
- harvestable wind can only provide 1TW
- harvwstable wave power another 2TW
- current and proposed tidal plans total 0.1TW. Practical potential around 1TW.
- solar could do it but you would need to cover more of the earth than is currently covered by tarmac and you have intermittency (night) and transmission issues to overcome
None of these will put fuel in your car/truck/plane/boat and electric vehicles don't scale

You sir are truely amoral, and worse than most. A spin doctor who has worked it out and then worked out how to use it to his advantage and is prepared to lie to us, make us fell like its all OK just let you mine baby....mine...mine.
Sarah Palin would be proud of you.
Where is the coal/tin/copper/steel/oil extraction in the UK these days after 100 years btw?  pretty much all gone, so what has the UK left for its ppl? diddly.
So the Q has to be asked whats left for future generations of NZers if we do what you want and send it abroad to make yet more gadgets no one really needs. Answer nothing, frankly what you are saying is screw them, return too the stone age and enjoy. Alternatively we husband our one off resources for our children and children's children taking only what we need.

Creating unlimited energy does not solve the sustainability issues but ignoring sustainability for now, what about cold fusion?  I think I heard they are building a plant in France... 

Happy123 - I have a Professor friend who did his time in cold fusion - he's retiring next year. You might like to thinka about exponential growth, depletion rates, quality descent, lead-times.......
He laughs. Then cries.

That's a little dismissive, one problem at a time.  You say we shouldn't burn fossil fuels, surely cold fusion would be the solution to that particular problem...
You mention depletion rates, we will deplete the resources we have much slower if we don't have to burn coal, oil, etc for power. 

I equated no mining = no metals.  And no metals = stone-age.
Interesting, innit, that in all the heat and blather on this 'ere thread, no-one seems to have challenged that logical sequence....
The real questions (if one accepts that Metals are a Good and Useful Thang) become, not Whether, but How:
Where?  Under what conditions?  To what scale?
And the answers to these will vary (YMMV...) - consider the difference between:
Tom Price - literally mountains (Ok, it's Oz, hills) of iron ore, in a desert
Cornwall's deep-tin mines (much of them under the Atlantic), rich but thin seams
Germany's strip-mines for lignite - hundreds of sq km's affected
Pennsylvania's coal and Minnesota's iron ore belt - worked-out strip-mines
The Chatham Rise - nodules on the sea floor
Pike River:  40m tonnes of the best steel coking coal in the world, in a limestone escarpment by a National Park
Southland - 300 years of transport-fuel-equivalent in lignite under rich dairying country
Decisions, decisions.
And one size don't fit all....

Waymad - yes, you were challenged. As to depth of thinking - lack of - in your whole.
You above question is the one I- and others - have been raising here for some years. There are folk who think (actually, that's technically incorrect) that because we've done something before, we can keep doing it. Brendon missed that recently, re Ireland, and that was a linear 'miss'. It gets worse, when those folk take growth as linear, and project it forward.
You can accelerate in a car - but nobody goes on accelerating. Nobody of sound mind, would look at the acceleration thus far, and assume on that basis that acceleration will continue. We all know it doesn't happen - so why do we all swallow the bullshit about economic growth - given that it is based on extraction from a finite planet?
The trick is to live within sustainable physical parameters. That means valuing-in the biosphere, and all impacts thereon. That which economists call 'externalities' - which is an excuse to ignore (to ignore - to be ignorant). Living within your means - when dealing with finite resources - is best attempted early; you have some tolerance up your sleeve.
The article is part of a global effort to do the next exponential 'doubling', which will result in no having any tolerance left. Which is about where I'm at with these bullshit-artists. That includes our 'pollies from both sides of the House.

PDK reproductive growth in the biological sense does not have to equate to 'acceleration', 'exponential growth', over exploitation of resources and population boom and bust. Especially if the species reach a stable equilabrium population, which looks like will happen in NZ. Some species have over exploited their resources at certain times leading to a localised boom and bust. But overall life in this world has managed to grow/ reproduce for several billion years successfully.
Whether humans can manage to be a surviving species that co-exists with their ecosystem or booms and busts is uncertain. The devil is the detail. I think that is what Waymad was getting at.
P.S I read your housing article in the New Zealand Lifestyle Block magazine. A little bit jumbled but overall not a bad effort - will read part 2.

Volvo Launches DME Powered Vehicles in North America:
DME mirrors the exceptional performance qualities and energy efficiency of diesel, and burns clean without producing any soot.  It can be made from a variety of sustainable domestic sources, as well as from North America’s abundant supply of natural gas, and therefore has the potential to significantly reduce energy dependency.
Also DME from pulp mill waste for instance:


Hi,  Ok, well problem is EROEI, so even bio-fuel from "waste" struggles to get much above 1 to 1 where oil was 100 to 1 and today is maybe as low as 10 to 1, very probably under 20 to 1.
NB Here in NZ we have tallow, though not really a waste product as such, but we could and I wish we would do 2 or 3 pilot plants. 
So the "investment" (really energy) in bio conversion plant to get the same fuel output is huge in comparison to an oil refinery.
This doesnt mean we shouldnt do these as they offer resiliance for our economy but our modern economy needs 8 to 1 not 1 to 1.
The natural gas conversions are interesting but short term. A truck lasts 25years? shale gas no where as long.
What is interesting is that shale gas while abundant for now has not been matched by shale oil so ppl consder it worthwhile to convert the gas to snyth-deisel. So , a) if shale oil was going to be as plentiful and cheap as shale gas like it seems is promised, why do an expensive in-efficient plant?  ans, it aint. b) what are they going to do with such plants in 5 at most 10 years time? ans go bankrupt.
Personally I think there is huge fraud going on in this "play" and ppl are going to get burned.

Whats to challenge? in a black and white world where it seems quite a few ppl reside in here there is no grey, hence, yes, no metals = stone age is correct.
When we note peak oil, or iron or phosphate, peak therefore == 0 for some as they are outbid from the purchase. 
The rest of your post ignores,
expotential function and the doubling time.
Good and useful, yes but also affordable.
You have been told by PDK and I often enough, yet you still choose to ignore these it seems.
We will have to choose, the latest iphone today, or leave those minerals in the ground so our kids can have shovels and spades to plant food with.
PS lignite in Germany, yes the lowest grade, all that is left, over large areas. That means a lower quality and a bigger effort for it, thats a double hit to the equation....also bigger waste left over, so really more CO2 and slag to deal with....
or seems.

Ignoring that cold fusion doesn't exist there are other issues. The fusion process is cold implies it can start at room temperature. However, to use it to create electricity, you will need it to generate heat to drive a heat engine. How much heat? About 2.5-3 times the energy of the electricity produced (the process is about 30-40% efficient as determined by entropy). Increasing the heat output into the environment at exponential rate of 3% per year will boil the planet in 290 years (even ignoring greenhouse effects). A little extreme but that is exponential growth for you.

Thorium actually looks the promising future "high tech" energy source, but we need it now (as in production ready and build out), not in 10 or 20 years.

We should not mine for renewables like solar and wind we need all those minerals for all the kids junk toys over Xmas

yes, where else are we going to get the raw materials for the next iPhone and other essentials.   How else are our banks ad government going to renovated their premises every 3 years if no cheap new materials?

DME Potential
From the home of Michael Mann no less.
"Some Paths Present Clear Advantages... liquor gasification to DME can produce ~50% of Swedens diesel demand and has >95% renewable content."
Also slide
"Lignocellulose Pyrolysis Shows Great Promise"
It has gone beyond great promise and now Fortum have an industrial scale plant running as per earlier link. That plant would not have gone in nor would Volvo be investing in DME if they did not think there was long term potential.

We are on a peak oil plateau, we have at most 6 years on it, probably less than 2. "great promise" is too late.  Take a look at just how much fossil fuel infrastructure there is and how little renewables and consider the massive job of expanding it to meet the loss of oil.  Large refineries take 5+ years to build, we need renewables on a 10 x scale of oil...