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Chinese energy company Qinghua Group is expected to announce before the end of the month whether it will launch itself into New Zealand, in what could be a multibillion-dollar investment into lignite conversion, port development and a steel mill.
Sydney-based Greywolf Goldmining is Qinghua Group's joint venture partner and has been paving the way for its entry into New Zealand, having overseen three visits by Qinghua representatives to New Zealand during the past three months, including Qinghua chairman and owner, entrepreneur Qinghua Huo.
When contacted yesterday, Greywolf chief executive Edward Lancaster said although no firm date had been finalised for a meeting with Resources and Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, he expected "a decision by Christmas" from Qinghua on whether the company would go ahead with its proposals.
However, Qinghua Group wants senior ministerial support from the Government, where possible, to fast-track resource consent applications and development of port infrastructure, Mr Lancaster said.
"These projects could be started in three to six months, instead of three to four years. By then, other countries will want to come in," he said.
The Green Party has already raised objections to mining lignite for conversion and Greenpeace yesterday said it was seeking information on Qinghua's proposals to mine lignite near Gore.
Mr Lancaster said the respective lawyers had agreed on Greywolf taking over a lignite permit at Waimumu, near Gore, which has an estimated recoverable 1 billion tonnes of low-grade lignite under permit.
Iron sand deposits, on the west coasts of both the South and North Islands, still had to be analysed.
Asked about port development, Mr Lancaster said large iron-ore carriers would be anchored well offshore and could be supplied either by tender vessels or by a slurry pipeline.
"These sort of logistics are all being looked at now," he said.
• Sydney-based, private company, including Lancaster family members.
• Joint venture partner with Qinghua Group, spearheading its foray into NZ.
• Intends more than $200 million sharemarket float next year in NZ and Australia.
• Holds about 20 gold and nickel exploration interests in Australia, and iron ore in the Pilbara, WA.
• Holds permits in New Zealand, including iron sands in the Manawatu and Kapiti Coast, acquisition of coal permits in Collingwood and Buller and interest in coal seam gas area in Central Otago.