Other mines will offset Denniston mine, court told

Western Australian mining company Bathurst Resources has several prospective opencast mines within an area where it would do environmental work to offset its Escarpment mine on the Denniston Plateau, the Environment Court has heard.

Bathurst is defending resource consents for an 190-hectare opencast mine, Escarpment, against challenges from the Royal Forest & Bird Society and the West Coast Environment Network.

The net 3963-hectare biodiversity enhancement area surrounds Escarpment and the adjacent Solid Energy-owned Sullivan mining licence area.

A condition of Escarpment's consents is to carry out pest and predator control within that area for a minimum of 35 years.

Environment Commissioners Carron Blom and Russell Howie and Judge Laurie Newhook raised concern over potential future mines - especially Whareatea West - being within the biodiversity enhancement area.

Bathurst's investor statements say Whareatea West would be the next mine off the rank for its Buller Coal Project on the West Coast.

Judge Newhook said the consent would need to have conditions which were "robust" and likely to achieve the results Bathurst intended.

The conditions of the consent could be futile, if they were unlikely to be completed because Bathurst applied to mine within the area, he said.

Royal Forest & Bird Society's top of the south field officer Debs Martin said mining in the area would render the environmental offset area pointless.

The Escarpment project is being developed by Bathurst subsidiary Buller Coal.

The exploration permit for Whareatea West is held by Rochfort Coal, a subsidiary of Bathurst.

She asked how it would affect the enhancement area, if Buller Coal was obliged to do environmental work within the enhancement area, while sister company Rochfort applied and was consented to mine within it.

Forest & Bird's Denniston Campaign aimed to get about 5900 hectares of land, including the Escarpment and West Whareatea mines, protected under the Crown Minerals Act.

The Denniston Plateau was the only opportunity left for Department of Conservation land which could be made into a protective reserve to retain an intact Buller plateau ecosystem, she said.

"This is the only realistic place to create a meaningful reserve."

Martin said there were no coal deposits on the Denniston that Forest & Bird would allow to be opencast mined.

"The problem is the areas were there is coal coincide with very high ecological values on the plateau."

Bathurst lawyer Jo Appleyard said the company would prove its plan.

"The devil's in the detail and it's up to us to prove to you that those conditions are achievable and workable."

Bathurst will also, through "compensation", conduct predator and pest control in a 10,000ha area surrounding the Heaphy Track roughly from Mackay Downs to the sea.

The Press