Coal mining on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau will go ahead, but on a smaller scale than first planned.
Bathurst Resources announced in February that it was putting plans for the Denniston Escarpment Mining Project on hold indefinitely because of the low international price of coal.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith today announced the company would now reduce the area it planned to mine during the project’s first two years from 62.2 hectares to 19.3 hectares.
Bathurst would also reduce the amount of coal extracted in the first two years from 558 kilotons to 75 kilotons.
The company would ramp up its operations when market conditions improved, Smith said.
Bathurst would still need to pay the Department of Conservation a $22 million compensation package, but now had seven years to pay it, instead of five, Smith said.
The extra time would not affect planned conservation projects, Smith said.
Bathurst planned to begin initial work on the Denniston Plateau from July 1, including site clearing, installing roads and basic infrastructure, and establishing initial water management dams and drainage systems.
Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said Smith was not applying his own logic to the issue.
Last month, he turned down a plan to build a monorail in Fiordland because there was a risk the scheme would fall over and the taxpayer would be left to clean up.
"Just as with the monorail, there is a real risk [Bathurst] will do irreparable damage to the Denniston Plateau, and then go bust," Hackwell said.
However, Buller mayor Garry Howard said confirmation the project would go ahead was good news for the West Coast after Solid Energy and OceanaGold recently announced they would be making redundancies at their Stockton and Reefton mines respectively.
‘‘It’s good that it’s not a sudden big push ... it is a common sense approach. We want them take out the coal when it’s at maximum price, because you can only mine it once.’’
Howard said the Buller District Council was looking at other sustainable industries it could bring to the region, such as horticulture or working with carbon fibre.
The council had requested help from the Government to research its options, he said.
- The Press