Bathurst may seek capital

Bathurst Resources' Cascade mine operation on the edge of the Denniston Plateau, above Westport....
Bathurst Resources' Cascade mine operation on the edge of the Denniston Plateau, above Westport. Photo from ODT files.
Dwindling cash reserves for specialist West Coast coal mine developer Bathurst Resources have raised questions as to whether it might seek more capital - given the project is at least 18 months behind schedule.

Bathurst shares have plunged more than 90% since April last year, from an all-time high of $1.74 to all-time low of 13c last month; trading recently around 16c.

Bathurst remains mired in litigation with environmental groups, contesting decisions from the High Court and Environment Court in a series of appeals, while its financial accounts reveal declining cash and bank deposits, from a total $53.8 million a year ago to $17.6 million in March.

More than 20 resource consents were granted, conditionally, by the West Coast Regional Council and Buller District Council during 2011, with Bathurst hoping at the time to begin mining operations by the end of that year.

Craigs Investment Partner broker Peter McIntyre said Bathurst's recent share price, at 16c, reflected growing investor concern over the length of time it was taking for the company to get beyond the consenting process, and increase operations.

''While the litigation goes on, they are doing other work and domestic sales are improving cash flow.

''But, overall, its cash position is dwindling. Investors will be questioning whether Bathurst will have to come back to the market for more capital,'' Mr McIntyre said.

On Friday, Bathurst chief executive Hamish Bohannan said in a market update its cash position had been ''substantially improved'' from a reported $6.6 million in March to $13.8 million last Friday, largely from increased domestic sales, deferred capital expenditure and having downsized its workforce.

''Throughout the last quarter, we have made substantial operating gains in the domestic market,'' he said.

Mr Bohannan was contacted by email about the overall dwindling cash and deposits at hand, and where Bathurst's undrawn banking facilities stood, but was unable to respond.

Bathurst's sole income is from the three boutique mines producing domestic coal, which were purchased as going concerns, as it began development and the consenting process for several projects around the Denniston Plateau, above Westport, aiming to eventually mine three million tonnes annually of specialist hard coking coal for export.

Total coal sales for the quarter to March were almost 77,000 tonnes, with 33% from the Cascade mine on the edge of the Denniston Plateau and 66% from operations at Takitimu, Western Southland.

About a year ago, Bathurst was reported to have access to about $A90 million ($NZ105.1 million) in undrawn banking facilities.

Reflecting Bathurst's legal predicament, on Wednesday last week Mr Bohannan noted the lapsing of an appeal period for Forest and Bird, on a disputed interim decision.

However, on Friday Mr Bohannan's market update said Bathurst was opposing an application by Forest and Bird for leave to appeal an earlier High Court decision, which had dismissed an earlier appeal covering resource consents for an area on the Denniston Plateau.

Decisions on other aspects of the Denniston operations, or consents, are due from the Supreme and Environment Courts.

Bathurst's quarter to June figures are due later this month.

-simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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