Towards the northwestern side of South Island of New Zealand is situated a small settlement that is known by the name of Denniston. The area formed by this settlement is the West Coast region of the country. This small town is situated on the small Mount Rochfort Plateau in the mountain ranges of Papahaua, which measure around 600 meters above sea level, meanwhile the distance from Westport is 18 kilometers towards northeast.
At the start of the 20th century, the population of this small settlement was recorded to be about 2000, because of the huge coal mine that is situated quite close to where the people had settled. Speaking of now, the area has become more of a ghost town and hardly 50 people live here. It will not be wrong to say that the fate, location and history of Denniston are not very different from another settlement of New Zealand, known by the name of Millerton.
It is important to note here that coal is still being mined at the Stockton Mine and close to the Burnett's Face. In the year 2010, it was announced by Bathurst Resources that Escarpment Mine Project would start mining for coal in this region, and this was the decision that has received a great deal of controversy recently and the environmentalists have strongly opposed this move.
In the year 2013, Bathurst was given a go-ahead by the Environment Court pertaining to the initiation of coal mining in this region; however environmentalist groups including Forest and Bird have been protesting against it till date.
There are two main reasons because of which the environmentalist groups are against coal mining in this region. The first reason has already been stated above. Since it is a small settlement, the population of this region did not really go over 2000 people. However, because of the extensive coal mining programs that are being run in this area, it has now become a ghost town, which means that not more than 50 people are now living here. It should be noted here that the main stance of the environmentalist groups is that it is unfair on the people to run such mining projects because they have to leave their place of living and move to others.
As of the second reason, it has to do with the landscape of this region. The plateau has a rocky landscape, which offers wonderful views of the ocean and the coastal plains. Even though it has been blurred in the mist, the landscape that is presented in this region is quite breathtaking and can be developed further to attract tourists. However, in the presence of the current mining projects, this is not going to be possible.
Several different cases were being heard in the court pertaining to this matter. As of June of this year, the Bathurst Resources have been given the permission to start their mining project in Denniston Plateau. Six-month consent has been issued by the Department of Conservation so that the company has start working at the West Coast. However, the company has been obliged for the submission of a new application each year in order to continue their project. The department has also given its consent to extend the $22 million compensation for Bathurst Resource from the time period of five years to now seven years in the wake of the changes in the coal market internationally (ONE News, 2014).
It has been said that the money will be directed towards the predator and pest control in the Denniston Plateau and the Kahurangi National Park. On the other hand, Forest and Birth have claimed that the company should remain on the conditions that were put forth during the original consent. The group is of the view that the company's current share price decline is an indication that their project poses a real threat of doing irreparable damage to the region (ONE News, 2014).
The mining project of Bathurst Resources was started in the month of July 2014. Nevertheless, the company does plan to reduce the extent of the area that will be mined and therefore the amount of coal that will be taken out from the ground in the next two years. It aims to accelerate the project when the conditions of the market are in their favor (ONE News, 2014).
Since the year 1991, the environmental laws of the country have been based on some similar themes. The most dominating of these themes has become the principle of sustainability, which now forms the fundamental principle for the management of physical, and natural resources, fisheries and indigenous forests (Mfe.govt.nz, 2014).
The cornerstone of the environmental legislation of New Zealand was the Resource Management Act of the year 1991. It refers to the way the country manages the environment that includes, water, air, soil, the coastal environment, biodiversity, noise, general land use planning, and subdivision (Mfe.govt.nz, 2014).
As for the international laws, the country has been obliged by many multilateral environmental agreements that have also become a part of the national legislation. When several countries work on global environmental issues, multilateral environmental agreements are signed. It should be noted here that these agreements can included commitments that are not legally binding, which are expected to be respected by the parties that became a part of the agreement when taking into consideration the actions that could affect a specific environmental issue. On the other hand, there are some clauses in these agreements that legally bind the parties.
Taking into consideration the aforementioned legislation of the country, it will be safe to say that the mining project that has been assigned to Bathurst Resource is likely to affect the biodiversity as well as the usage and planning of land in general. As it has already been stated above, it should be noted here that most of the people that were the inhabitants of this plateau have now moved out because of the extensive mining programs in the region. Apart from that, the landscape of the region has also been destroyed due to coal mining. Another extremely important factor is that the region has been shrouded by mist that is a result of coal mining. Therefore, it can be said that even the air is being polluted in this already small region, and therefore the government is not really acting upon the aforementioned environmental legislation.
Statement of Intent
The statement of intent of the government is a documental report that is based on 41 pages. It defines what the government plans to do for the economy of the country with respect to the environment of the country. In the foreword given by the Minister of Environment, it has been stated that it is the foremost duty of the government to plan the economic activities in such a way that the standard of living of the people is not compromised and that the environment and culture of the country is sustained in such a way that the population can keep availing advantageous opportunities. However, it should be noted here that even though the mining project that has been assigned to Bathurst Resource and economic gains are expected as a result of this project, what is suffering is the environment and landscape of the region. The fact that people have been forced to move out of this place because of the mining activities, and the population has come to 50 from 2000 cannot be stressed enough to prove that mining on this plateau is costing people as well as the environment a lot (Ministry for the Environment, 2014).
Before we begin with reviewing the hazardous effects of coal dust on the health of the people, it should be noted here that there are only a few number of reports and papers available in the international literature that specifically deal with the environmental exposure of to the coal dust that enters the environment as a result of coal mining. One of the reports has stated that coal dust has the potential to increase the incidence of asthma in the community that lives near the coal mines. However, actual proximity of the distance has not been mentioned in this report. It was seen in South Wales that the people who were living close to the coal mines developed asthma. This report was not very detailed or extensive and unfortunately not many reports have been carried out pertaining to this subject. Not many detailed epidemiological studies have been done regarding this issue. It needs to be noted here that at present, there is not much information available to us pertaining to the levels of dust in the air, the type of dust and the possibility of the presence of other factors in the coal dust that predispose a person towards getting an asthmatic attack, and also there is not sufficient data as to the diagnoses and causes of other side effects on the health of the people as a result…