West Coast residents desperate to save the Spring Creek mine have had their first small victory.
Solid Energy has agreed to let mine workers join its review process.
Nine days ago, the state-owned company suspended operations at the West Coast underground coalmine while it reviewed its viability. It slashed jobs at Huntly East Mine in Waikato and its Christchurch head office.
Yesterday, Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder met some mine workers, union representatives and Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn to discuss a way forward.
It came after more than 1000 people marched in Greymouth on Tuesday over the feared closure, which would put more than 250 workers and contractors out of jobs.
The New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union said it was pleased Elder agreed workers and union delegates could join its review.
"It's positive that they have allowed us into the review process to try to find a solution to the problems we are facing," the union's Spring Creek site convener, Trevor Bolderson, said.
"The march has had its desired effect in that it got Elder talking to us."
The review was expected to take three to four weeks, during which workers would remain on full pay, he said.
A Solid Energy spokeswoman confirmed local and corporate management had agreed to join workers, union representatives and others in determining the mine's future.
"They are pleased they had a good series of meetings and pleased they found a way to go forward with local staff and others," she said.
Union members were to be asked last night at a meeting for their support in joining the review. If they agreed, Bolderson said the team would meet Solid Energy on Monday to start trying to formulate a "workable plan that saves money and keeps the mine going". The union would ditch plans to picket Solid Energy's Christchurch head office next week.
He said the company needed help to save the mine, which had a $70 million shortfall in funding to complete its development.
"It's not Solid Energy we need to impress, it's the Government. We've got to convince the stakeholder that we have got a future. We are not asking for a bailout."
The first senior MP to front the controversial issue will be Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, who is in Greymouth today.
He will discuss the mine at a meeting with Kokshoorn this morning and hold a media briefing afterwards.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Which do you think is the quote of the year?Related story: Best quotes? Cats, sweat and Aaron Gilmore