E tū: sadness at job losses as Spring Creek closes

By   /   February 3, 2017  /   6 Comments

E tū says the closure of Solid Energy’s Spring Creek mine is a blow to the miners working there, as well as their families and the wider West Coast community.

The mine has been kept under care and maintenance for the past four years and Solid Energy has tried to sell it. However, the state-owned coal company has failed to find a buyer.

E tū’s Director of Industries, Ged O’Connell says news of the closure is sad but not surprising given the mine’s troubled history.

“There is sadness at yet another mine closure in a region which strongly identifies with this industry, and where mining has provided skilled, well-paid jobs,” says Ged.

“These are long-serving people and this latest closure will hit our members and their families hard. It’s not just about the mine closing. What’s going to happen to these guys?”

Ged says the Coast has seen a stream of steady job-losses in recent years.
Meanwhile, he says there is work for up to 4 months to shut down and seal the mine.

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6 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    It is hardly surprising that Solid Energy, that is itself bankrupt and in receivership, could not find a buyer for the Spring Creek Coal Mine.

    In the age of climate change the writing is on the wall for the coal industry.

    Of all the fossil fuels, coal has been identified as the most destructive to the climate.

    Being almost pure carbon, pound for pound, coal produces almost three times its weight in CO2 on being burnt.

    Apart from being the main global cause of climate change, coal is also deletrious to the environment through particulate air quality and poisoness sulphur dioxide responsible for acid rain. The coal mining industry is also deadly for miners, being responsible for the vast majority of deaths in the mining sector.

    What is really sad about the closure of Spring Creek is that there has been no implementation or planning for a Just Transition for these mine workers to jobs that don’t fry the planet.

    The latest ETU membership news paper, has an article written by a working miner and unionist, Justin wallace in support of a Just Transition.

    http://www.edtu.nz/visageimages/documents/E%20tū%20and%20you%20Dec%202016%20online.pdf

  2. Jenny says:

    So what would a “Just Transition” that working miner and unionist, Justin wallace calls for, look like?

    Hauauru Ma Raki’.

    In 2013 Contact energy had approval to construct a wind farm West of Huntly.

    This project was scrapped due to the falling international price of coal, and due to coal imports from Indonesia through the Port of Tauranga.

    The cheap international coal price and the Indonesian coal imports through Tauranga also resulted in the loss of over 300 coal mine jobs at Huntly.

    In a sane world the government would have banned Indonesian coal imports and restarted the stalled Hauauru Ma Raki project,retraining the laid off coal workers for this new renewable energy project, which was estimated to create over 1,000 jobs.

    Eric Pyle of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association has said that it would take only a small legislative tweak for Hauauru Ma Raki to be restarted again.

    This move is possible if a project is considered to be of “national significance”.

    “Waikato windfarm backtrack costs hundreds of jobs”
    “Estimated 1033 jobs blown away”

    Waikato Times

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/9066601/Waikato-windfarm-backtrack-costs-hundreds-of-jobs

  3. Jenny says:

    Certainly the closure of the Spring Creek Mine without any Just Transition is a sad event for these miners and the union that represents them.

    But it could have been worse.

    This mine could have been bought by the viciously anti-union, anti-worker employer Talleys. Talleys would have pushed to get rid of all the union workers in favour of non-union, or sub contractor employees. It is what they have done at all the enterprises they own.

    It is worth noting that Pike River, the worst disaster to afflict the mining industry in recent times was a majority contractor non-union coal mine which is also the Talleys model.

    A Talleys buyout of Spring Creek would have represented the very real prospect of even more tragedy on the coast.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/316919/solid-energy-mines-sold-to-bathurst-talley's-venture

    A “Just Transition” Now!

  4. Jenny says:

    It is impossible to be sure about the total number of job losses as a result of Solid Energy’s decline because the figures cited in the company’s annual reports only include staff – not contractors. June 2010 = 1223
    June 2011 = 1426
    June 2012 = 1658
    June 2013 = 1036
    Dec 2013 = 858
    June 2014 = 862
    Oct 2014 = 721 (estimated following Stockton job losses announced July 2014)
    June 2015 = 589[9]

    The majority of those killed at Pike River, were contractors.

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Solid_Energy#cite_note-9

  5. Jenny says:

    The Labour Party which posits itself as the party for working people, should get in behind the ETU and working miner Justin Wallace. And make it one of their election pledges to promise to champion a “Just Transition” for mine workers caught by the historic decline of coal.

    Restarting the canned Hauauru Ma Raki project would be a practical central part of this pledge.

    Included in the this pledge, training to upskill the workforce needed to carry out this work.

    With Hauauru Ma Raki on line, as well as creating over permanent 1,000 skilled jobs.

    Hauauru Ma Raki would put New Zealand well on its way to fulfilling our international obligations signed up to under the Kyoto agreement.

    Finally seeing the closure of the ageing and run down Huntly Coal Fired Power Station making New Zealand’s electricity grid 100% renewable.

    This one act could give hope to millions of people fighting the effects of climate change around the globe, not least our Australian cousins across the Tasman.

    As Andrew Little in his State Of The Nation speech at Mt Albert last week, adressing the intolerance and ignorance of the new Trump administration, said New Zealand needs to become a “beacon to the world”.

  6. Kim dandy says:

    @Jenny – yes the answers aren’t rocket science and are achievable, by a government who actually gives a damn about NZ – but my fear is ‘money’ will always be the driving factor, not people.
    The next government may prove me wrong, but I ain’t holding my breath.



Authorised by Martyn Bradbury, The Editor, TheDailyBlog, 5 Victoria St East/Queen St, CBD, Auckland, New Zealand.