Pike River Coal has moved quickly to appoint Peter Whittall as its new chief executive and its workforce should have $10,000 bonuses in their pockets just before he takes up the job.

Whittall is presently mines general manager and will move into the top job on October 2, a week after the bonus will be paid if the company's hydro mining technique is up and running.

"It's a significant incentive for the workforce to focus on. People have been working towards that diligently, as you can imagine," said Whittall, who replaces outgoing chief executive Gordon Ward.

Whittall joined Pike River at its West Coast mine site in 2005, and moved to the Wellington head office in January. He has been involved in capital raisings, and was responsible for on-site construction, mine development and recruitment.

Before joining Pike River he had 24 years' experience in underground coal mines for BHP.

Pike River said last week that Ward, who has been chief executive and managing director since May 2007, would leave the company next month. Chairman John Dow said Ward had been involved with the mine since it was conceived 14 years ago.

Whittall was an outstanding candidate, he said. "The issues with Pike are now mainly operational. He knows every nook and cranny around the place and that's the expertise we need."

Hydro mining - water blasting coal from the seam and pumping it out of the mine with water in pipes - will increase production rate and if successful is seen as a big step for the West Coast mine, which has been plagued by delays and the need to regularly tap investors for more funds.

Whittall said no further capital raising was envisaged.

Pike River Coal shares yesterday closed up 3c to $1.09.