West Coast miners expand prospects

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2014

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West Coast mining companies are still optimistic and planning expansions despite recent downturns in commodity prices.

Several companies with interests in the region spoke at the Minerals West Coast forum in Greymouth last week.

Mosman Oil and Gas Limited West Coast operations supervisor Nick Whetter gave an update on the Kotuku project, prospecting for commercial oil near Greymouth. Whetter said two cores had been drilled and oil was found.

There was more testing to be done, and in August there would be further seismic testing to look for other places to drill.

Whetter said if there turned out to be enough oil to be economic, it could be an option to put a small refinery in the region.

OceanaGold general manager Dale Oram said though the company's mine near Reefton was winding down, it was exploring options to revisit historic West Coast mines including Globe Deep and Blackwater.

The Reefton Globe Progress mine was being wound down to a care and maintenance phase by mid-2015. About 60 workers were expected to be made redundant in the next few months.

Bathurst Resources chief operating officer Richard Tacon said the company had a "journey" getting permission to begin its Escarpment mine on the Denniston Plateau.

"We've seen off all of the appeals," he said and the company was granted an Application to Enter and Operate (AOE) in June from the Department of Conservation (DOC).

"We've got a really good relationship with DOC," Tacon said.

Meanwhile, the company acquired Cascade mine in the Buller region and was supplying coal to Westport's Holcim cement plant.

Solid Energy Health, Safety, Environment & Community Manager Phil Rossiter said that as well as Stockton, Solid Energy had started mining at Cypress mine and was setting up open-cast pits at Strongman mine.

Rossiter said the company was looking into options for Spring Creek mine, which was put into care and maintenance in 2012. Two hundred and twenty workers were made redundant at the time.

A further 184 employees and contractors were made redundant in a restructure at Stockton mine.

The company was also exploring options for Liverpool mine, between the Strongman and Roa mines, "when pricing permits," he said.

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