Approval has been given for Bathurst Resources to commence work on its Escarpment Mining Project on the Denniston Plateau near Westport, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.
“I granted an access agreement for Bathurst Resources in May last year under the Crown Minerals Act to construct and operate an open cast mine on 106 hectares of the 2026 hectares of stewardship land on the Denniston Plateau. The Department of Conservation today issued an Authority to Enter and Operate (AEO) which means the company will now be able to proceed with initial work on the site,” Dr Smith says.
The AEO announced today is for a six-month period. Bathurst Resources will need to submit another 12-month work programme for the Department to consider before another AEO is issued, and this will be required for every year for the life of the mine.
“Bathurst Resources was to provide a $22 million package over five years to the Department of Conservation in compensation for the loss of conservation values incurred by the project. However, changes in the international coal market since then have resulted in the company revising its mining schedule and accordingly, an application was made for a variation to the schedule of compensation which the Department has agreed to,” Dr Smith says.
Bathurst Resources will now construct the mine over an extended period and reduce the area that will be mined in the first two years from 62.2 hectares to 19.3 hectares, and reduce the amount of coal extracted in this time period from 558 kilotons to 75 kilotons. The company plans to ramp up its operations when market conditions are more favourable.
The amount of compensation will remain the same, but the revised schedule will now see the original $22 million package paid over seven years, instead of five.
The compensation has been tagged for pest and predator control over 25,000 hectares of the Heaphy River catchment in the Kahurangi National Park, 4,500 hectares on and around the Denniston Plateau, as well as for historic projects on the Plateau itself.
“The change in the schedule of compensation will not affect the outcome of these conservation programmes which the Department will continue to proceed with. The Department has required all bonds and insurance to be in place before any work begins. It will also be monitoring the site regularly,” Dr Smith says.
Initial work by Bathurst Holdings on the site at Denniston Plateau is scheduled to begin from 1 July. It will involve site clearing, establishing initial water management dams and drainage systems, installation of coal stockpile areas, site roads and basic infrastructure including a site office and amenities. Coal production areas will be cleared and other earthworks will be undertaken to prepare the site for the company to eventually move into full mining operations.
“The approval of this access agreement and the revised timetable for the compensation package will be welcome news for the Buller community which has had a tough run of redundancies in recent weeks,” Dr Smith says.