West Coast coal mine caught in litigation loop

Bathurst Resources has racked up more than $15 million in costs trying to get the go-ahead for the project

Hamish Bohannan. Photo / Supplied
Hamish Bohannan. Photo / Supplied

Bathurst Resources faces yet more court action as it battles to get approval for a West Coast coal mine which could provide hundreds of jobs.

The company has already racked up more than $15 million in costs trying to get the go-ahead for the open cast coking coal mine on the Denniston Plateau and is becoming increasingly frustrated.

Bathurst has said there is a never-ending loop of appeals against resource projects and its own plan is now 18 months behind schedule.

Yesterday, the West Coast Environment Network launched the latest legal action, announcing it would appeal against a High Court decision which ruled climate change irrelevant for coal mining consents.

The company said it was confident of winning at the Court of Appeal after two earlier court rulings found climate change was not a relevant factor to be considered by local councils in determining resource consents.

Bathurst also faces up to a month of substantive hearings appealing against the granting of its consent in August last year.

Managing director Hamish Bohannan said the hurdles resource companies faced were "daunting" and they needed deep pockets to get over them. His company's share price has been hammered in the past 12 months, partly as a result of the action by opponents on the Coast.

"The global economy is not particularly joyous at this point and we're getting discounted because of the concern over the environmental hearings."

The company's shares peaked at $1.22 last year, but last night were unchanged at 46c.

Bohannan said Bathurst had already spent $250 million on the project and was in the midst of a $5 million revamp of loading facilities at Westport.

"It could be seen as a ballsy call but we're spending that money in anticipation of increasing production."

Uncertainty hangs over more than 200 workers at Solid Energy's Spring Creek mine but Bathurst's Escarpment Mine on the plateau would provide 225 direct jobs.

"There's not much we can do at the moment because we're not putting anyone on. We sympathise with the families who are affected and we're doing the best we can."

Solid is reviewing its operations because coal prices have tumbled during the past year and fallen off a cliff since June.

But Bohannan said Bathurst was not changing its plans. Its coking coal will be used in the steel industry, which is facing a demand slump because of slower growth in China.

"It [coal] has come off the highs of the last 18 months quite considerably but you have to run your business so that in the bad times you're holding your nose above water and in the good times you're making good money for investors and the nation."

The company hopes to mine more than one million tonnes of coal a year from the Escarpment project.

The fight

Environmental group claims:

Resource consent hearings already take other complex matters into account; climate impacts need to be weighed up too.

Bathurst's response:

The end user must pay carbon tax and it can't influence another country's carbon-charging regime.

- NZ Herald

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