[imageSolid Energy should have seen the coal price crisis
coming and prepared for it, says West Coast-Tasman MP Damien
International coal prices had always fluctuated but Solid
Energy had naively charged ahead thinking record prices would
continue, he said.
It had subsequently over-reacted to the coal price drop by
mothballing Spring Creek Mine, and changing rosters and
Just down the road from Spring Creek, privately owned Roa
Mine continued to operate in the same coal markets without
any job losses, he said.
"Unfortunately, Solid Energy have sat on their chuffs in
Christchurch, too far removed from the coal mining, from the
reality of what's going on."
He acknowledged the Christchurch head office had shed some
staff, but said many senior managers remained while
mineworkers had lost their jobs and their homes and had to
move elsewhere for work.
Solid Energy had undergone so much upheaval, it begged the
question what was the company's strategy, he said.
Solid Energy has shed about 480 staff so far. It is warning
more jobs will go at Stockton opencast mine unless workers
agree to change from 12-hour to 10-hour shifts to cut
production 20 per cent.
Mr O'Connor said he realised Stockton profits had been
required for other Solid Energy projects, but the company
could not "just rape and pillage a cash cow".
He believed coal prices would rise again and said one of the
challenges was to ensure coal communities benefited more from
Solid Energy's mines. He applauded the Buller District
Council's royalties for regions project.
- By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News