Bathurst sees Buller running soon

22:27, Dec 13 2012

Bathurst Resources expects to clear all challenges to its Escarpment Mine project on the West Coast, with production set to start in the second half of 2013.

Speaking at an investor presentation in Wellington this morning, the dual-listed open cast miner said it's confident its ecological mining techniques will win over the three challenges to its crown jewel project which has the potential to produce up to 94 million tones of high grade coking.

The ecological approach involves stripping and storing top soil before open cast mining starts, and replacing it and re-establishing native vegetation once the coal has been exhausted.

Bathurst concedes these areas can never be completely restored to their original condition after mining, but stressed it is the most environmentally sound practice available to miners right now.

“Of particular concern to (Government) and the community is the need to grow New Zealand's economy and jobs, and to achieve that it's vital that projects like ours do proceed,” said chairman Craig Munroe.

The first two challenges were launched by Royal Forest & Bird and the West Coast Environmental Network on the impact of the strip mining on environmentally sensitive land, and whether or not Bathurst or end users are responsible for the climate change impacts effects from burning coal.

The environmental case is expected to be settled before March next year, and the climate change appeal is currently before the Supreme Court, with the firm having previous won rulings in its favour from the Environmental Court and the High Court.

The third approval outstanding is with the Department of Conservation, which the firm said is more procedural and it does not expect any major issues to arise.

Once operational, the Escarpment mine will employ 225 people in the West Coast region, which was deeply affected earlier this year by layoffs at Solid Energy's Spring Creek mine.

Bathurst also said it had begun the process of applying for further resource consents for the North Buller area, and has received consents for the Whareatea and Coalbrookdale mining sites.

The firm's shares opened at 44c this morning, unchanged from the previous close, but down from 80c a year ago.