Westport celebrates mine

By Laura Mills
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The main street of Westport was awash with red and blue bunting this morning — Buller colours — as the town celebrated the final approval for the proposed new coalmine on the Denniston Plateau.
Australian mining company Bathurst Resources learned yesterday the court intends granting consent for the Escarpment mine. The company has said work could start at Denniston before Christmas.
Westport has recently lost more than 300 jobs at the nearby Stockton Mine, and 120 jobs will go within two to three years when Holcim closes the Cape Foulwind cement works.
For today, though, the town was celebrating some good news.
Pro-mining group Environment West Coast, based in Westport, said there was a sense of relief and a mood of celebration.
Bathurst has said the proposed mine could create more than 200 jobs. However, the approval comes in the midst of a massive slump in international coal prices that have closed down mines in New Zealand and Australia.
Westport i-Site manager Chris Hartigan said this morning there were balloons everywhere — over shop doors, in windows, and people were wearing red and blue hats.
“There’s a huge amount of red and blue balloons,” he said.
Environment West Coast president Brent Oldham said a Forest and Bird spokesman had claimed last month that “most West Coasters don’t support mining”.
Mr Oldham said the relief today was tempered with the thought ‘what are the opponents going to say or do next?’
There are still some appeals left, but the general consensus is that the mine will now go ahead. There is an appeal on climate change, and the nearby Sullivan Mine.
Bathurst has been granted access by Conservation Minister Nick Smith — even though the Department of Conservation recommended against allowing access because of the perceived environmental damage — and is now seeking permission for a haul road.
Managing director Hamish Bohannan said the amendments yet to be worked out by the Environment Court would not be difficult to address.
“The court has made it clear that consent will be forthcoming,” Mr Bohannan said.
“The court has also acknowledged the urgency of the matter by requesting that parties provide a prompt response on conditions (within 10 working days).”