Work under way at Cypress Mine

By Laura Mills

Almost 10 years after gaining consent, mining is under way at the Cypress Mine at Stockton — scene of the fierce and protracted Save Happy Valley protests a decade ago.
With 187 jobs set to go at Stockton, and coal prices at record lows, Solid Energy says Cypress is exactly the sort of lower cost-to-produce pit the troubled State-owned coalminer wants to focus on.
Solid Energy said it was lifting out and transferring tussock herbfields partly to protect snails ahead of mining, and birds had GPS transponders attached so they could be tracked at all times.
The Save Happy Valley campaign involved conservationists lobbying, occupying the head office of the Solid Energy, scaling a four-storey building and blockading Solid Energy’s coal trains. Members also set up camp in an area adjacent to the proposed mine site for over a year.
Solid Energy said the first coal from Cypress was produced towards the end of last year.
“Since then we have been producing an average of about 40,000 tonnes a month from the Cypress area for the wider Stockton effort,” spokesman Bryn Somerville said.
Because Cypress Mine was part of the wider operation, it was not directly responsible for any new jobs on the Stockton Plateau.
The consents included detailed programmes to manage native wildlife, Mr Somerville said.
The powelliphanta giant snail in that part of Stockton was patrickensis, which “although rare” was more common than its augusta cousin to the west, so the management was more straightforward, he said.
Solid Energy was lifting all the tussock herbfield out and transferring it to storage areas “so a lot of snails will be moving that way”.
“We also carry out searches for any others and they are carefully put into areas nearby that won’t be touched.”
Solid Energy knew all the resident birds and their nests, and had maps of their ranges.
“They’re all tagged and carry GPS transponders so we can see where they are at any time. They do get down close to the operational areas and there are processes for the few times that any operators see one.”
Some kiwi eggs had been uplifted and incubated, hatched or raised to a size where the youngsters were more likely to survive and then released in other places. The area in and around Stockton Mine had strong pest control, too.