Coal from park for local use - Elder

Coal in the Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park, identified by the Government for potential mining, would almost certainly be destined for use in the domestic market, state-owned Solid Energy says.

The Government has identified 7058 hectares of land it proposes removing from schedule four in the Crown Minerals Act, to pave the way for mining access. The area included 3315ha in the Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park, on the West Coast of the South Island.

Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder said his company had investigated a small and more accessible part of the area.

"We identified that there was probably between 15 and 20 million tonnes of sub-bituminous coal, or low-quality thermal coal," he said.

"We don't yet know a lot more about it, but we've been having a close look."

Such coal could be a relatively low-cost fuel for dairy companies, like Westland Milk or Fonterra's plant at Takaka, and schools and hospitals.

Solid Energy had an exploration permit in the Inangahua coal field, Dr Elder said, and he welcomed the Government's discussion paper.

"New Zealand's natural resources are worth thousands of billions of dollars.

"This is the opportunity for New Zealanders to understand the potential value of our mineral resources and to have a sensible and balanced national discussion about their use, and that includes the constraints around their use.

"The decisions that we make today will impact on our country for decades, if not hundreds, of years and could bring significant benefits for generations to come," he said.

The company particularly supported the proposal for a Conservation Fund which could draw on royalty revenue from mining operations on Crown land for special conservation projects to improve the overall natural environment.

"We know that New Zealanders value our unique natural environment extremely highly. We also know that New Zealanders want good jobs and a high standard of living.

"Smart, well-managed use of our natural resources, combined with a conservation fund to create long-term environmental gain, will allow us to have both," he said.

Pike River Coal general manager Peter Whittall said his company was open to looking at any options but it did not comment on specific areas.

Pike, which is mining high-quality coal for foreign steel mills near, and eventually under, Paparoa National Park, said it was open to being more than a one-mine company.

Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said New Zealand had in-ground natural resources worth thousands of billions of dollars and developing them could change New Zealanders' prosperity.