Earnslaw’s dying embers

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A 97-year coal seam for Queenstown’s Earnslaw vintage steamer expires soon – but our Lady of the Lake won’t be grounded.

Coal producer Solid Energy closes its Ohai Opencast Mine in Southland at the end of June after losing a major contract, which means a new power source is needed for the familiar coal-fired steamer.

The Earnslaw, launched in 1912, had its boilers designed and built to suit the local coal.

Tourism company Real Journeys, which operates the ship, confirms its coal contract runs out at the end of May.

“Solid Energy is working closely with us to source an alternate supply of coal from the West Coast and also from some of their other mines,” says Real Journey’s Queenstown boss Tracey Maclaren.

“We are assured there will be a continuity of supply, however we have strict resource consent conditions to meet regarding emissions.

“Together with this, we need to have coals with correct energy value, minimal sulphur and ash content, and of an even size.”

She adds: “There are also the costs associated with transporting coal to Queenstown. The TSS Earnslaw coal suitability is more than just supply.”