Coal in New Zealand

Recoverable reserves271Mtoe

Production3.43Mtoe per year

New Zealand has extensive coal resources, mainly in the Waikato and Taranaki regions of the North Island, and the West Coast, Otago and Southland regions of the South Island.  Total in situ coal resources are estimated at around 15 billion tonnes, more than half of which is potentially recoverable. New Zealand coal production in 2010 was 5.33 million tonnes (Mt), 17% up from 2009 production of 4.6Mt. Of this production, approximately 2.60Mt was bituminous, some 2.44Mt was sub-bituminous, and approximately 0.295Mt was lignite. Opencast mines supplied 3.98Mt, with the remaining 1.35Mt from underground mines. Production is centred on the Waikato (2.04Mt), the West Coast (2.71Mt), and Otago/Southland (0.54Mt). Over 59% of national production was from two large opencast operations, at Rotowaro and Stockton.

In 2010, New Zealand consumed some 2.7Mt of coal, again down on the usage of the previous year due to reduced coal-fired generation at Huntly (New Zealand’s only one coal-fired power station – The use of this had been scaled back in 2007 in favour of gas; however, the plant was pushed into use again by a particularly dry winter in 2008 impacting on hydroelectricity production). Just over 0.25 million tonnes of coal were imported, mainly for use by Genesis for electricity production, with the remainder coming from local production.

Coal supplied around 5% of New Zealand’s consumer energy demand. The biggest domestic users are again the Glenbrook steel mill (0.8 Mt) and the Huntly power station (0.6 Mt). Electricity generation (including cogeneration) accounted for 37.5% of domestic coal use and transformation (mainly steel making) accounted for 19%. The industrial sector, mainly cement plants (Golden Bay Cement near Whangarei and Holcim’s plant at Westport), lime and plaster, meat, dairy factories (particularly those at Clandeboye in South Canterbury and Edendale in Southland), wool, timber, and pulp and paper products, accounted for 37% of coal use, and the commercial sector – heating accommodation and service buildings in central and local government, hospitals, rest homes, and educational institutions – accounted for 2.5%. The remaining 4% was used by the agricultural, transport, and residential sectors.