MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining firm over-reacting to satire, say protesters

Published by MAC on 2007-03-02

Mining firm over-reacting to satire, say protesters

Jarrod Booker, The New NZ Herald

2nd March 2007

Mining company Solid Energy has been accused of badly over-reacting by going to court over a "satirical" document produced in its name. But the state-owned company says the "2006 Environmental Report" created by anti-mining protesters brings its name into disrepute and is no joke.

The Save Happy Valley Coalition of protesters, which has long been at odds with Solid Energy over its mining activities, used Solid Energy's company logo on the cover of the 12-page mock report. Inside it, the protesters lambast the company for its activities and impacts on the environment.

Solid Energy responded by launching proceedings in the High Court at Christchurch claiming the document was defamatory. It was seeking an injunction, but was yesterday refused by a judge in a telephone conference. The company is now deciding whether to argue for it in a full court hearing.

Coalition spokeswoman Frances Mountier said the report had been sent to all media outlets and its supporters, but "it is pretty obviously a joke".

"Although the [environmental] issues behind it are not a joke."

Ms Mountier said the coalition was surprised at how the company had "over-reacted" and would not remove the document from its website.

Solid Energy spokeswoman Vicki Blyth said the coalition was being disingenuous when it called the document a joke. After a string of "stunts" by the protesters to get attention, the company was fed up.

"The frustrating thing for us is that we can take criticism but not when its blind criticism that won't acknowledge what [positive things] we are doing and that's where we feel particularly aggrieved."

Last year, Ms Mountier and fellow protester Daniel Rae were found guilty of trespass and ordered to pay reparations of just over $2000 after blocking coal trains in protest again Solid Energy. The coalition has been occupying a proposed West Coast coal mining site known as Happy Valley, 20km northeast of Westport, for over a year.

The protesters have also recently moved into the nearby area of Mt Augustus, where Solid Energy is blasting away land that was the habitat of a rare giant snail. The company was controversially granted permission by the Government to shift the snails from their habitat. Protesters claimed they were within a blasting safety zone when dynamite was being used.

Ms Blyth said the company was following all safety rules. The protesters were making the choice to put themselves into dangerous situations.

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