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Rural land sale cleared to expand Bathurst's Canterbury coal mine

Tuesday 1st October 2019

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Bathurst Resources has been cleared to buy a 31.5 hectare rural "lifestyle block" to extend its Canterbury coal mining operations just five months after Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage blocked expansion of a gold mine in the Bay of Plenty because it would replace "productive farmland".

Bathurst, the country’s biggest coal miner, has been cleared by the Overseas Investment Office to spend $680,000 buying the land at Glentunnel, west of Darfield. It is about 2 kilometres from the firm’s Canterbury coal mine near Coalgate.

In a summary of its decision, the OIO noted that the land is currently used as a lifestyle block and is not an economic farming unit.

In May, Sage, also Minister of Conservation and a Green Party MP, used her powers under the Overseas Investment Act to block a proposal by OceanaGold to buy 178 hectares of farm land near its Waihi mine. The land was to be used for a new tailings dam.

In a split decision with Labour colleague and Associate Finance Minister David Clark, she argued there was no net economic benefit from allowing gold mining in the area to continue, given the loss of productive farmland.

Oceana has sought a judicial review of her decision.

Bathurst, which is headquartered in Wellington but listed on the ASX, plans to install mining infrastructure on the land at the Canterbury site to mine the neighbouring area. Eventually, the land itself will be mined subject to resource consents being granted, lengthening the life of the mine by 13 years from 2022 to 2035.

The office noted that the mine supplies coal to local dairy companies, promoting the region’s economic interests. Without it, coal would otherwise have to be trucked in from greater distances.

“The applicant intends to retain existing jobs at the mine from 2022 to 2035, and create some new jobs associated with the mine,” the office said. “It also intends to introduce capital for development purposes, and mitigate some environmental risks by implementing some protection measures for the endangered Canterbury mudfish habitat in the Bush Gully Stream that runs through the land.”

Coal Action Network Aotearoa attacked the decision, saying the government was operating in two “alternative realities.”

On one hand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had claimed climate change is this generation’s ‘nuclear-free moment’ but was otherwise accelerating the use of coal, spokesperson Cindy Baxter said.

Getting New Zealand’s emissions onto a track consistent with holding global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius means “we have to stop burning coal, and stop new coal mines. There’s a huge concern about Canterbury’s coal use and Bathurst can expect massive opposition to this mine," she said.

Canterbury accounted for about 142,000 tonnes of Bathurst’s 1.65 million tonnes of production in year ended June 30.

The firm had been expecting the mine to deliver about 150,000 tonnes, 10 percent more than the year before, reflecting increasing demand for coal from Canterbury dairy and food processors.


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