17 Nov 2009

Greenpeace activists arrested in mine protest

2:05 pm on 17 November 2009

Four environmental activists been arrested in Southland, after attempting to shut down a coal mine.

Three women and one man from Greenpeace blockaded gates and chained themselves to an excavator at Solid Energy's New Vale Mine near Gore.

They were trying to bring Fonterra's Edendale milk production factory to a halt by cutting off its coal supply.

The Greenpeace protesters say a milk dehydrator recently installed at the factory has lifted its coal use by 60% and Fonterra's overall coal use by 17%.

Fonterra's general manager of sustainable production, John Hutchings, says that while the factory does get its energy from coal, the figure used by Greenpeace is inaccurate.

He says the Edendale factory has increased coal use by about 7.5%, and when it is operating at full capacity there will be another small increase, but nothing like the 60% figure cited by Greenpeace.

Mr Hutchings says when taking into account the factory's location and source of energy, coal is the best option for the company.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Boxer, says there are other options that industrial energy users such as Fonterra could consider, such as biomass, wood waste and wood chips.

Mr Boxer says Greenpeace has based its figures on the amount of coal the company uses on information that Fonterra released to the Government during its submissions on the Emissions Trading Scheme.

He admits, however, that Fonterra doesn't produce clear figures for the amount of energy it uses for each of its facilities.