Solid Energy to slash 15 Stockton jobs

New Zealand coal miner Solid Energy is slashing 15 management and support services jobs at its Stockton mine.

The move comes as global coal prices continues to slump. The company said the job cuts were needed to guarantee the mine’s profitability in the market for coking coal it generated for export in the steel-making industry.

"The short and medium-term mine plans for Stockton include simplifying the mining operations, with less exploration, resource-proving and other activities which go into new pit development," Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford said.

"These changes are essential for Stockton to operate at current international steel-coal prices of around US$131.50 tonne [$166.84], versus US$225 a year ago and US$330 in mid-2011."

The company is likely to cut about 45 roles as well as exploration. It revealed plans to management and support services employees at Stockton mine which would mean these jobs would reduce from 186 to 141.

Fifteen employees will be made redundant if the plans go ahead, reported. This is due to numerous vacant positions because of a hiring freeze at the company since August last year.

Huge restructuring last year meant one in four jobs went and Spring Creek underground mine on the West Coast was shut.

Ford said the company’s funding partners are working with the Government to plan the future of its capital structure.

The company is optimistic about its operating prospects and Stockton would play a crucial role in that.

“The company has a long proud history on the West Coast and we’re absolutely committed to the Buller and our Stockton mining operation,” Ford said in a statement.

“We have a good business provided we can keep bringing our costs down and operate within the volatile pricing of the international coal market.”

New Zealand’s largest opencast mine faced a $32 million budget cut last year in an effort to stay feasible.

Stockton Alliance manager Michael Harrison said Solid Energy’s opencast export operations were close to marginal in the wake of low coal prices and the high New Zealand dollar.

Solid Energy is in a joint venture partnership with Downer EDI Mining NZ for mine operator Stockton Alliance.

The operator arranged with the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union to permit flexible workforce rosters required for any more downward pricing in the market.

Australian Mining reported yesterday Solid Energy pled guilty after confessing it failed to guarantee safety for its employees after one miner was crushed by tonnes of coal in July last year.

The miner spend six weeks at Christchurch hospital.

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