Resources sector lobby group Straterra has highlighted the importance of New Zealand's wealth of specialist high-grade quality coking coal, crucial for the manufacturing of steel.
Straterra chief executive Chris Baker said coal provided jobs and contributed to economic development in regional New Zealand and played an important part in the country's export-reliant economy.
“We note the Government has committed to phasing coal out of electricity generation by 2030, as have the electricity generators themselves,” Baker said.
However, he said there was more to coal than just the role it played in generating electricity from the Huntly power station.
“New Zealand exports coking coal from the West Coast - it's an essential input in the [overseas] manufacture of steel,” Baker said.
While an increasing amount of steel globally was being recycled, there was currently no technology to make steel, at scale, without using coal.
“New Zealand coking coal has certain special qualities and is in high demand internationally,” Baker said.
Specialist coking coal prices are far higher than thermal grade coal.
“If we don't supply our coking coal, customers will purchase elsewhere, often from producers with lower environmental standards.”
That meant steel would still be manufactured, but there would be no net gain for the global environment jobs would also be lost on the West Coast.
*Simon Hartley is senior business reporter and assistant chief reporter for the Otago Daily Times.