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Reserves and Production

New Zealand has known in-ground coal resources exceeding 15 billion tonnes1, more than half of which is potentially recoverable. New Zealand’s largest coal resource is lignite in Southland and Central Otago. There are also substantial resources of sub-bituminous coal in both islands, and a lesser amount of high-quality bituminous coal, mainly on the West Coast of the South Island.

Over 93% of all production is of bituminous and sub-bituminous coals. Although lignite makes up 80% of national coal resources, lignite production in 2013 represented only 6% of total production, mostly as a consequence of its high moisture content and distance from the main centres of energy demand.

Coal production is centred on the Waikato (mainly for several major industrial users and the Huntly power station), the West Coast (mainly for export), and Otago/Southland (mainly for local industrial markets).

More information on the New Zealand coal industry is available from the New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals website.  

Figure 1: Coal Production

[image] Figure 1: Coal production

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Most of New Zealand’s premium bituminous coal is exported. This is valued internationally for its low ash and sulphur content, and other characteristics such as high swelling, fluidity and reactivity, which allow blending with other coals for use in the steel industry.

Electricity generation (including cogeneration) accounts for the largest amount of domestic coal use. Industrial coal use is primarily for cement, lime and plaster, meat, dairy and other food processing, wool, timber, pulp and paper products. Commercial coal use is mainly for heating accommodation and service buildings in central and local government, hospitals, rest homes and educational institutions. A small amount of coal is used by the agricultural (mainly horticulture), transport and residential sectors.

For more information see section ‘C. Coal’ of Energy in New Zealand.


Figure 2: Total Coal Consumption by Sector

[image] Figure 2: Total coal consumption by sector

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1 Barry, J.M., Duff, S.W., Macfarlane, D.A.B. 1994. Coal resources of New Zealand. Resource information report 16. Energy and Resources Division, Ministry of Commerce.


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