NZ’s coal mine extension under threat

An environmental group is attacking the extension of a mine in New Zealand’s west coast, saying the company’s resource consent has elapsed.

Solid Energy is looking for consent for its Cypress mine extension to the Stockton Opencast Mine, near Denniston.

This is the state-owned coalminer’s biggest mine.

However, the Biodiversity Defence Society (BDS) said it would lodge a declaration of proceedings with the Environment Court today, claiming Solid Energy does not hold resource consents for the Cypress mine.

Solid Energy received approval in 2005, which was valid for seven years on the condition it started work on the mine during this time, stuff.co.nz reported.

But BDS spokeswoman Helen Tulett pointed out work had not started so the consent was now invalid. In this scenario, the company would have to propose the development again through the resource consent process.

BDS had contested the Cypress extension bid, which is equivalent to many other mines on the west coast plateau including Happy Valley.

Solid Energy had to stop many mine operations including Cypress in the last year during its restructuring.

But according to The Press, the company started drilling in the Cypress mine in April 2009.

“Happy Valley is still intact,” Tulett said.

Tulett feels the mine should have never received approval.

“While a road has been built in, the company has not begun blasting a mine pit, removing overburden and extracting coal. Mining activity has not begun and that means the consents are no longer valid.

“We’re asking the court to confirm that.”

Tulett believes the company would not have received approval today as environmental and biodiversity measurement tools have altered significantly.

Cypress Mine in Happy Valley sparked outrage and protests in the country, with protesters setting up occupation camps for three years.

Solid Energy has faced stiff environmental opposition for other projects including its lignite coal project in the township of Gore.

Activists attended an anti-coal mining 'Keep Coal in the Hole' festival in January, with one Australian farmer-turned-activist saying sacrificing fertile farmland to mine lignite coal is '100 per cent stupidity'.

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