New Zealand's largest underground coal mine, Solid Energy's Spring Creek Mine at Dunollie on the West Coast, will soon cease production for nine months.

The mine resumed coal extraction in May after six months of downtime due to an incident of spontaneous combustion in early November, just before the Pike River Mine explosion.

Spring Creek was then overtaken by the Government-ordered audit of all underground mines in the wake of Pike River.

Since resuming production three months ago Spring Creek has consistently met its target of 60,000 tonnes a month, but the water cannons that blast the coal from the face will soon fall silent for another nine months.


It is expected that the current extraction panel will be exhausted by November-December, when the mine will again lapse into development mode as it develops the new Rapahoe East resource.

Development work involves opening up new areas to keep ahead of coal production. All of the 120 Spring Creek staff will be retained during the transition.

Large domestic customers such as Westland Dairy Products and Grey Base Hospital have been assured of continued coal supply.

"We will manage our customer orders from stockpiles and production from development faces, as we have in the past, and do not expect there to be any problems,'' Solid Energy spokesman Bryn Somerville said.

"We expect that will be the case for around nine months, with only development coal being produced.

"Ideally, we would prefer to avoid these interruptions to extraction but this delay has been forecast and has been planned for.''

- Greymouth Star