NZ coal miners march on parliament

Miners facing job cuts at Solid Energy's Spring Creek and Huntly East coal mines will tomorrow march on New Zealand's parliament.

The miners are demanding that the government provides around NZD $36 million in subsidies to keep the mines open.

Last month Solid Energy announced a company wide restructure that would see a number of jobs cut across its Huntly East operations, and the suspension of work at its Spring Creek coal mine.

At its Huntly East mine Solid will cut investment into upgrading ventilation, and reducing staff levels from 234 positions down to 171.

It will also slash around 60 contractor positions from its mine ventilation upgrade project.

The miner explained that the "Spring Creek Mine has struggled to be profitable for some time. It has been in a development phase since the end of 2011, with minimal coal production as tunnels were being formed into a new resource area and underground infrastructure installed to allow this new coal block to be mined.

"It is not expected to return to full production until early in 2013 and will need a further $70 million of operational cash and capital investment to reach that point and at current market prices will not generate a positive margin."

Now workers will march on Parliament with a plan they have drafted designed to save jobs and keep the mines open.

NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union delegate and Spring Creek miner Trevor Bolderson said that the miners want the government to provide NZD $36 million, which in addition to their plans to save around NZD $60 million, will allow the mine to stay open and only cut 70 jobs, NZ City reports.

Bolderson said these new plans show Spring Creek is viable but needed Government funding to survive the next two years.

"We're hoping to make them see that the economic and human cost of closing Spring Creek would be unconscionable," he told the New Zealand Herald.

Another EMPU delegate, from Solid' Huntly East mine, added that the cutting of the ventilation project may also damage the mine's future.

"Solid Energy's proposal to cancel the Huntly East ventilation project is a very risky and short-term saving strategy that could force the mine to stop production within two years.

"There are hundreds of jobs at stake here and we'll be encouraging the Government to see the bigger picture."

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