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Environmental activists today blocked the coal depot of Fonterra's factory near Timaru, using a truckload of wood pellets, to protest the company's continued use of coal.
Greenpeace protestors dumped three tonnes of wood pellets in the depot which supplies coal to the boilers and four locked themselves to equipment to stop coal deliveries in a bid to persuade Fonterra to switch to a "cleaner" fuel.
Fonterra two years ago stopped taking coal for its Clandeboye plant from the Ohai mine owned by Solid energy and stated taking about 130,000 tonnes a year from Australian-owned Eastern Coal Supplies at Takitimu mine, near Ohai.
But Greenpeace has criticised Fonterra for not switching away from coal to cleaner alternative fuels. Coal is a fossil fuel which has high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, but wood pellets can be made from slash or other waste from plantation forests.
"Fonterra's decision to run its factories on coal rather than clean alternatives epitomises not only the global climate crisis, but also the very serious economic challenge facing New Zealand," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Boxer.
Greenpeace last November protested against the lignite coal mine supplying Fonterra's Edendale milkpowder factory, and four activists were arrested after trying to block access to the New Vale mine near Gore. They complained Edendale would burn 179,000 tonnes of lignite which contributes to the release of over 250,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, equivalent to the emissions from more than 87,000 cars in one year.
Mr Boxer said that if the Government approved mining in 3000ha of the Paparoa National Park, that coal was likely to be used in Fonterra plants.
"Mining coal, including from national parks, to burn in Fonterra factories producing low value milk powder for the commodities market, is nothing short of criminal," he said.
A Fonterra spokesman in Auckland said that latest protest was "disappointing" and potentially dangerous, but had no effect on the milk factory's operations.
"We use 13 percent less energy to produce each tonne of export product than we did in 2004," he said.
Energy efficiency improvements this year would mean the cooperative's reductions in emissions would top the equivalent of 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide since 2003.
"We use the best mix of energy sources available to us at every one of our sites," the spokesman said. "We're continually looking for ways to be more energy efficient."
The cooperative was investing in technologies such as heat recovery at factories, and seeking greater processing efficiencies.
Two of the protestors were chained to a front-end loader, and another two were blocking an access to the depot. They said on a Greenpeace website that police arrived about 3pm – about three hours into the protest – and then went away again.