Beleaguered state-owned enterprise Solid Energy is
mothballing its contentious $25 million lignite-to-briquettes
plant near Mataura.
In a statement yesterday, Solid Energy and plant joint
operator GTL Energy proposed it be ''temporarily closed'',
with full-time jobs down from four to one, while its future
was being decided.
The Mataura briquetting plant was one of several initiatives
of former chief executive Don Elder, who forged ahead with a
variety of alternate and costly developments when the global
coal price was soaring, but which ultimately drove Solid
Energy to the brink of collapse.
A fortnight ago, the Government loaned Solid Energy $100
million, and extended a further $30 million standby facility.
About 550 jobs have been lost across the country during the
past year and earlier this month Solid Energy's financial
losses were reported to have ballooned to $335 million, from
a $40 million loss a year ago, largely due to asset
GTL Energy chief executive Fred Schulte said the company had
options to lease or acquire the plant from Solid Energy, and
they were continuing discussions on its future.
''The production results over the last few months were
pleasing, with product produced, stockpiled, transported and
sold,'' Mr Schulte said in a statement.
GTL was reviewing how the briquette product fitted in the
domestic coal market, and the plant's future lay in its role
in GTL's ''global technology deployment'', he said.
Solid Energy interim chief executive Garry Diack said the
proposal, outlined to staff yesterday, was to maintain the
plant in good condition until discussions with GTL Energy
• Separately, GTL has projects under development in
Indonesia, and under consideration in the United States and