By Pattrick Smellie
State-owned coal miner Solid Energy has lodged resource consent applications for major new mining operations on the Stockton Plateau, targeting five million tonnes of high-grade coking coal, which is in demand internationally for use in steel-making.
Solid Energy already has extensive workings on the plateau, which is adjacent to, and to the north of, the Denniston Plateau, another traditional mining area, where West Australian company Bathurst Resources is fighting environmental groups’ opposition to its plans for another substantial open-cut mine.
However, one of the leading opponents of the Bathurst project, Royal Forest and Bird Society of New Zealand, appears likely to treat the Solid Energy application differently from the Bathurst application.
“Stockton is already heavily mined. Denniston is pristine,” said Forest and Bird conservation advocate Claire Browning.
Solid Energy has applied to the Buller District and West Coast Regional Councils for consent to develop the five million tonne resource at the Mt William North block, to extend the Stockton mine.
“If its application is successful and associated permissions are obtained, the company’s current mine plan is to begin developing early in 2015,” it said in a statement. “That work would take a year and Mt William would contribute 500,000 tonnes a year to the mine’s output over the following decade.”
Solid Energy is one of five state-owned companies slated for partial privatisation over the next five years.
Mt William North is north of the Cypress area, which is now being prepared for mining, and will share the water treatment, roading and other infrastructure being developed ahead of mining at Cypress. Site rehabilitation will take place progressively over the life of the mining area.
Stockton currently produces up to two million tonnes of coking coal for export annually, with plans for mining to continue for another 20 years at around current levels.