Denniston Plateau mine’s a goer


The Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society won’t appeal an Environment Court ruling signing off on a planned coal mine for the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau after cutting a deal with mining company Bathurst Resources yesterday.

The environmental lobbyist has agreed not to appeal the final consent process and in return Bathurst won’t do anything in its control to cause open cast mining in a defined protection area, the entities said in separate statements. The parties also agreed to let court costs fall where they lie in respect to the wider appeals process.

“This agreement is a significant milestone for the Escarpment Mine Project,” Bathurst chief executive Hamish Bohannon “It gives Bathurst increased certainty and the company now has a much greater level of confidence around being able to commence mining activities as soon as possible.”

Last month the Environment Court granted consents for the project, ending a two-year battle waged in the courts, which have largely been in Bathurst’s favour.

Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin said the group cut the deal because a successful appeal might not have prevented the mine, and that this was a way to ensure Bathurst protects the reserve area.

Bathurst shares were unchanged at 24 cents yesterday, and have climbed 26 percent this year.

This is a good outcome for all concerned.

The mine will go ahead creating more higher paying jobs on the Coast and the reserve area is protected


Mine gets go ahead


The Environment Court has given Bathurst Resources resource consent for  application for their Escarpment Mine on the Denniston Plateau.

The green light has been welcomed by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.

“The Escarpment Mine and associated works are expected to create 225 direct jobs and approximately $85 million each year will go to employees, suppliers, contractors and transport providers,” Mr Bridges says.

“This is great news for the West Coast. The mine will inject almost $1 billion into the New Zealand economy over six years, and provide $30 million each year in royalties and taxes,” Mr Joyce says.

“This is a significant injection into the local economies of Buller and the West Coast.”
“Unlike what opponents might say, this is exactly the type of business investment New Zealand needs to create more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders,” Mr Bridges says.

Mr Bridges says the Escarpment Mine is expected to produce around 1 million tonnes of high quality coking coal annually for the life of the mine, and includes plans for related infrastructure.

The economic and social benefits are obvious and there’s significant mitigation for environmental impacts.

The Escarpment Mine Project is almost entirely in the Mount Rochfort Conservation Area, which is deemed “stewardship” conservation land and therefore is not protected from mining.

As part of mitigating its impact on the environment, Bathurst’s access agreement with the Department of Conservation involves a $22 million, 35-year predator management programme over 25,000 hectares of the Heaphy River catchment in the Kahurangi National Park and a 50-year predator management programme over 4,500 hectares on the Denniston Plateau.

Bathurst has established an Environmental Reference Group to monitor and guide the environmental performance of the company’s operations.

Bathurst has been through a protracted and expensive consent process.

The company can now spend its money more productively providing work for people and income for the country.

Endangered species


Forest and Bird does a lot of good work to protect endangered species.

They also have a propensity for protesting against development.

Some West Coasters have had enough of that in their patch.

A group travelled to Wellington to protest against F&B’s continued opposition to Bathurst’s Denniston Mine.

One hoarding read: Westcoasters endangered by Forest and Bird.

This might not be the only opposition F&B faces.

Go West Coast is investigating legal avenues for opposing the opposers.

Chairman Brent Oldham said that the four and a half year resource consent process has obviously cost Bathurst considerable time and expense. GWC is concerned that the longer final approval takes, the more financial and time pressure is being placed on Bathurst – and he wonders just how much more they can take.

“If, at the end of this, Bathurst walk away from this project and cite on-going vexatious litigation from Forest and Bird as being the primary reason for this, then we believe Forest and Bird need to be held accountable. To this end, we are investigating whether a group claim could be initiated.

As part of their access arrangement to the Denniston Plateau, Bathurst Resources has committed to pay $22m to the Department of Conservation to be used on predator and pest controls in the Kahurangi National Park. It seems incredible to us that Forest and Bird seem prepared to risk the single biggest investment  by a private company to the Kahurangi National Park in return for the use of 106 hectares of 2,400 hectare Denniston Plateau that will otherwise, in all likelihood, never have a cent spent on it.

Forest and Bird’s constitution lists advocation of the destruction of introduced species harmful to New Zealand’s flora and fauna as a primary objective, yet their continuing appeals, in this instance, could be shown to contradict this objective.” . . .

The economy and social fabric of the West Coast will be boosted if the mine goes ahead.

The environmental impact will be mitigated.

The jobs and downstream work the mine would bring, the social impact of that, and $22m of pest and predator control seems very good compensation for disturbing a very small area albeit one with conservation value.


Coast to show support for mine


It is usually easier to get people motivated to oppose development than to support it.

But Environment West Coast was set up as a pro-mining lobby group and it plans to show their support for the Denniston mine in Westport today.

The news that the Environment Court has indicated their intention to issue final consent to Bathurst Resources to mine the old Escarpment workings at Denniston has been greeted with a sense of relief and a mood of celebration on the West Coast today.

Mindful that every-time a decision goes in favour of Bathurst, a flood of protests and legal challenges seem to erupt from the like of the Green Party and Forest and Bird, the relief is tempered with the thought “what are the opponents going to say or do next”.

Last month a Forest and Bird spokesperson said that “most West Coasters don’t support mining”.

Tomorrow, the people of Westport intend to disprove this by decorating the main street in Buller colours (red and blue) and displaying signs of support for Bathurst.

Good news for the Coast


Conservation Minister Nick Smith’s decision to allow access to Bathurst Resources for its Escarpment Mining Project on the Denniston Plateau, near Westport is very good news for the West Coast.

“This approval is for an open-cast mine on 106 hectares of the 2026 hectares that comprise the Denniston Plateau. This area is not National Park, nor Conservation Park nor does it have any particular reserve status. It is general stewardship land, which is the lowest legal status of protection of land managed by the Department of Conservation. The area does have conservation values although there has been some disturbance from previous mining including roads, bulldozer tracks and an artificial reservoir. The area also has some infestation from weeds like gorse and broom,” Dr Smith said.

It’s not a big area and it’s not pristine land.

“The loss of conservation values is compensated by a $22 million package by Bathurst Resources. This will fund pest and predator control over 25,000 hectares of the Heaphy River catchment in the Kahurangi National Park, 4,500 hectares on and around the Denniston Plateau, as well as for historic projects on the Plateau itself. This is the largest ever compensation package negotiated by DOC for a mine or other commercial venture.

“I am also satisfied that the comprehensive conditions associated with this access agreement covering rehabilitation of the land, enhancement of water quality, health and safety, debris, rubbish and fire hazards, will minimise the adverse effects of the mine. The agreement also contains detailed provisions for monitoring environmental effects, bonds and insurance.

“I wish to signal, that in giving this approval, I do not consider it is acceptable to open-cast mine all of the Denniston Plateau. The plateau does have unique biodiversity and landscape values from its raised elevation, high rainfall and unusual land form. I wish to see some of the high value areas reserved and put into permanent protection.

“I am encouraged by the constructive discussions that have been taking place between mining companies, environmental, historic and recreational groups over recent months. A better way forward than having long protracted legal proceedings would be for the parties to come to a common agreement on the remaining areas of the plateau that should be set aside permanently for conservation and for mining.

“The Government will be working with all parties to try and find a ‘bluegreen’ long term plan for the whole Denniston Plateau that balances conservation protection with the need for jobs and development,” said Dr Smith.

While the usual suspects are unhappy with the decision, Economic Development and Energy Ministers Steven Joyce and Simon Bridges point out the benefits.

The decision today by Conservation Minister Nick Smith to approve the access agreement for Bathurst Resources’ Escarpment Mine near Westport is good news for jobs and economic growth on the West Coast, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges say.

The announcement follows an interim decision by the Environment Court in March that it was likely to grant resource consent to the open-cast mine subject to appropriate conditions being agreed.

“The decision by the Minister under the Crown Minerals Act is a significant step forward for this project and will be welcomed by many West Coasters as balanced and pragmatic,” Mr Joyce says.

“Once open the Escarpment Mine is expected to create 225 direct jobs and approximately $100 million each year will go to employees, suppliers, contractors and transport providers.

“This will be a significant injection into the economies of Buller, the West Coast and New Zealand.”

Mr Bridges says the mine will produce high-quality coking coal that can be exported overseas for the production of steel.

“The project aims to inject almost $1 billion into the New Zealand economy over six years and provide $45 million each year in royalties and taxes that the Government can invest back into key infrastructure such as schools and hospitals,” Mr Bridges says.

“Unlike what opponents might say, this is exactly the type of business investment New Zealand needs to grow jobs and incomes for New Zealanders.”

The Coast has had a series of economic blows.

The ending of sustainable logging more than a decade ago led to a loss of employment. More recently there’s been the tragedy and subsequent closure of the Pike river mine, job cuts by Solid Energy and the downstream job losses which resulted from all of this.

This decision will bring economic and social benefits with the environmental cost mitigated by the compensation package and strict requirements on how the company operates.


Coasters want work not moralising


West Coast people have had enough of outsiders telling them what they can – and more often can’t – do:

West Coast Mayors say they are tired of outsiders telling locals how they should live their lives, while spreading misinformation about mining on the Coast.

Mayors Tony Kokshoorn and Pat McManus said they were appalled that Auckland and Labour MP Phil Twyford had agreed to receive a petition from protesters opposed to coal mining on the Denniston Plateau – which is the birth place of the Labour Party.

“Activists wrongly claim that Denniston is a pristine environment. It’s been a working coalfield for more than 100 years and it should continue to be.
“A local coal mining company is prepared to invest in the field and provide hundreds of much needed jobs for local people.

“We cannot wait for operations to begin and we will not tolerate Aucklanders moralising about what we are doing.

“The world needs our hard coking coal to make steel and other modern goods and we are willing and able to supply it,” the Mayors said.

Messrs Kokshoorn and McManus said they were particularly bemused that many who signed the petition were based outside the West Coast, or even outside the country.

The Mayors said they were open to discussions with environmental groups and would like to invite them to visit the coalfield on the Denniston Plateau.

Isn’t this far too often the way?

Local people want jobs and the benefits they bring to their communities. They don’t want them at any cost but they are open to discussion and development, with environmental safeguards.

Meanwhile people who might not even know exactly where the proposed jobs will be created, oppose development full stop because of a misguided idea it will ruin a pristine wilderness.

If it was their own backyards they were trying to protect they would be standing on firmer ground but it’s other people’s backyards where they want to ban development.

These people need jobs and the economic and social benefits which come with them. They are far better placed to ensure the environment is protected and possibly even enhanced than armchair environmentalists pontificating from distance parts of the country and the world.


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