New Zealand Stirs Controversy With Mining Plan

Government proposes opening national parks to mining operations

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What is the purpose of national parks? Right. Protection of nature—rivers, mountains, wildlife. Recreation possibilities for human visitors. Protection of views and vistas. Spiritual renewal.

But mining? Some parks, largely in Alaska, were created with mines in them because the mines were there first, but to my knowledge no new mine has been opened in a national park in this country. One national park—Yosemite—was invaded post-creation for construction of a dam and reservoir (Hetch Hetchy and the O’Shaugnessy Dam) that are fought over to this day. The dam should come out forthwith, but that’s a subject for another day.

Now, the conservative government of New Zealand proposes opening several national parks to mining—and to make matters worse, at least some of the mining would be for coal, the last thing we need to mine more of.

The international community, led by the Sierra Club’s International Vice President Richard Cellarius, has weighed in with a stern letter to the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, arguing that New Zealand’s magnificent parks are an international resource (some parts are part of the United Nations’ World Heritage Program, which does not look kindly on new mining operations) and that there might be an economic backlash in that tourism might well be harmed by new unsightly mining operations.

Dr. Cellarius’s letter sparked a little coverage  in New Zealand, but there’s so far no sign that Mr. Key’s government is being swayed. A letter (c/o Government House, Wellington, New Zealand), would not be a bad idea.

Tom Turner literally wrote the books about Earthjustice during his more-than-25 years with the organization. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, CA, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue: wilderness preservation.