Aussie miner scales back

By Tui Bromley

Australian-based Bathurst Resouces is shedding staff and withdrawing exploratory drilling rigs from the Denniston Plateau as the struggle to work through the New Zealand resource consents process takes its toll.
Bathurst currently employs about 70 people in Buller and says it will ultimately have about 450 staff there if the Denniston mine gets the nod.
However, Forest and Bird has opposed the mine since 2011 and is further stalling the project by appealing a recent Environment Court ruling that provisionally approved an open-cast coalmine on the plateau, subject to an adequate recording of resource consent conditions.
Bathurst managing director Hamish Bohannan said today two of the three drilling rigs would cease work on Friday, partially because the
winter conditions were not conducive to drilling but also to ensure that the company was “cash positive”.
As further cost cutting measures, Bathurst has laid off its Buller general manager Marianne Rogers and 20 contractors at the company’s recently acquired Cascade Mine will finish work when their contract expires next month.
Mr Bohannan said the contractors would have been transferred to the planned Denniston Escarpment Mine had approval been granted in time, and that Ms Roger’s position was not required because, at this stage, she did not have a mine to manage.
He said the company’s other two mines, in the Buller Gorge and Southland, were providing cashflow so the “delaying tactics” from Forest and Bird in the Environment Court, while frustrating, would not break the company, which had $20 million in the bank.
Meanwhile, the Westport News reported yesterday that Bathurst’s problems with Forest and Bird may soon be over.
A think-tank comprising Forest and Bird, Crown Minerals, Bathurst Resources, Solid Energy, the Historic Places Trust and Conservation Minister Nick Smith was meeting in Westport yesterday to find a solution to the ongoing mine saga.
Ecologic Foundation executive director Guy Salmon attended to
help broker a final agreement on the mine.
He said that once the parties involved had consulted their organisations, a final agreement might be sealed at another meeting in a week’s time.
Mr Salmon said Forest and Bird’s continuing legal appeals against the mine were a legal backstop to negotiations failing.
“What people are worried about is that this negotiation process might fail, and if it fails they want to have all their legal options open, so they have to lodge these appeals.
“On the other hand they seem to be quite serious about finding a negotiated solution.”