Our ancient local energy

Black gold . . . Created over millions of years and exposed by environmental processes such as those at Smiths Beach, Wangaloa, coal is a natural resource. PHOTO: NICK BROOK

With insulation covered, the generation of heat within your home is a matter of preference where local specialties are worth serious consideration.

The Western move towards a carbon-free future cannot happen overnight, and much of the infrastructure powering the industry and economy responsible for our prosperity and comfort still relies on the ancient energy harvested right here in Clutha.

Besides boiler fuel for glass, steel, concrete and fertiliser production, coal is the affordable option for countless families keeping the winter cold at bay.

Coal was found during an exploration programme using hand augers in Kaitangata, and in real need of winter warmth and industrial growth, mining began soon after.

Geologists know Kai Point coal is more than 65 million years old because there is evidence of dinosaurs within the seams.

Paleontologists will find no bones, but have unearthed plenty of gastroliths, the scientific name for prehistoric gizzard stones.

The stones are usually highly polished quartz pebbles and can get up to fist size.

It appears that the local dinosaurs roamed the primordial, forested wetlands for millions of years.

Back then New Zealand was closer to Antarctica and all kinds of life thrived in a climate much warmer than now.

These wetlands were subsequently covered with mud and the vegetation was compressed to form today’s coal.

Geologists estimate that over 2km of overlying strata was required to get the current coal quality.

There are up to 13 coal seams in the pancake-stack and the lower seams are of higher quality due to increased depth of burial.

Incorporated in 1951, Kaitangata and Balclutha-based Kai Point Coal was started by the late George Cross, the family name over our thriving recreation centre.

George received his grounding in the coal business by running the Linton Coal Company, the forerunner to the Ohai mine.

An energetic entrepreneur, George began a contracting business and several other ventures, and after much prospecting, the Kai Point Coal Company.

In October 1958 a new mine site was opened and remains the iconic local heat-source to this day.

The historical Kai Point Coal Co is a responsible company, committed to mining in a socially acceptable and environmentally sustainable manner.

The modern mine is open cast, efficiently supplying demand with just under 50,000 tonnes per year, about 80% of which is purchased exclusively for the industrial market.

Kai Point Coal has always been an active supporter of many community-based organisations within its areas of operation, and in challenging economic and political conditions continues to support our communities.

As environmentally aware Kiwis wait for the arrival of more affordable, hi-tech, renewable, green-economy options, coal continues to be relied on to provide industrial energy by the train load, and secure home heating by the trailer or sack.