Cypress mine hearing starts

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 11:57 22/07/2013

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Court proceedings started today to decide on the status of resource consents for Solid Energy's Cypress mine on the West Coast, an environment group has confirmed.

Environmental group The Biodiversity Defence Society last month filed a request for the Environment Court to declare the state-owned coalminer's consent to develop the Cypress block near Stockton invalid because of inactivity.

The hearing in the Environment Court is expected to last a day.

The Cypress extension is to the east of the Solid Energy's Stockton mine, which is a large opencast operation near Westport.

Solid Energy won the consent in 2005, after a long battle, the approval good for seven years as long as work was started on the mine in that time.

Biodiversity Defence Society spokeswoman Helen Tulett said the resource consents for the mine were due to expire at the end of 2012 if mining activity had not begun.

While a road had been built, the company had not begun blasting a mine pit, removing overburden or extracting coal.

"Mining activity has not begun and that means the consents are no longer valid. We're asking the court to confirm that.

"The mine should never have been given consent," she added.

The planned Cypress extension and other work by Solid Energy attracted environmental opposition in the mid-2000s, best known by the Save Happy Valley Campaign, which included a period of occupation of the area by that group.

Tulett said the need to act on climate change had increased.

"Happy Valley's outstanding and fragile natural environment is not being judged against today's rules, but those from nearly a decade ago," she said.

Ahead of the court case last-minute discussions were held between lawyers representing both sides trying "to get as much done out of court" and work things out.

A spokesman for Solid Energy last month said the miner was completely confident the consent was safe.

West Coast Regional Council compliance and consents team staff have visited the site in recent months to look at work Solid Energy has under way before the start of mining the Cypress extension.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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