Mining company has legal victory

Bathurst Resources has passed one more hurdle in its battle to open a 200-hectare opencast coal mine on the Denniston Plateau.

A High Court has ruled that climate change can't be taken into consideration in Resource Management Act hearings.

Environment Court judge Laurie Newhook had in May found in favour of Bathurst and co-respondent Solid Energy's assertion that climate change evidence wasn't relevant to the Denniston Escarpment Mine or any other RMA hearing.

However, this was appealed by Forest & Bird and the West Coast Environment Network, as part of their general appeal against the whole mine.

On Friday, the environmental groups lost their climate change appeal when Judge Whata ruled that the downstream effects of burning coal on climate change wasn't relevant to the RMA.

In his decision Judge Whata said both the coalmining companies and the environmental groups were in agreement that climate change was a serious global issue.

All groups agreed that coal mined at both Solid Energy and Bathurst's mines would probably result in the release of carbon dioxide (CO2), a known greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere when the coal was burned.

Solid Energy expected to produce 4.1m tonnes of coal at Mt William.

It was all expected to be burnt overseas, producing around 11.5m tonnes of CO2.

Bathurst expected to produce 4.3m tonnes of coal at its Denniston Escarpment mine that would be burnt overseas.

Judge Whata said the express purpose of the 2004 Amendment Act was to require local authorities to plan for the effects of climate change while removing their power to consider effects on climate change of greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead regulation of greenhouse gas emissions should be undertaken at a national level.

Forest & Bird top of the South field officer Debs Martin said she was dismayed at Judge Whata's decision as climate change was a tremendous threat to nature.

"Forest & Bird would like to see the RMA consider all issues for our environment from new developments, including mining. Climate change will have the greatest impact on the world's plants, animals and people, and it's hard to see why the RMA should ignore this," said Ms Martin.

Bathurst planned to eventually mine 80 million tonnes of coal in North and South Buller which, when burnt, would release about 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, she said.

Although the effects of the mine on climate change couldn't be considered, Forest & Bird would continue opposing the mine at the Environment Court.

It would also continue seeking a 5900ha reserve on the plateau to preserve its rare and endangered native plants and animals, including great spotted kiwi, West Coast green geckos, a unique species of giant land snail and miniature southern rata.

The main Denniston mine appeal hearing is set to begin October 29 in Christchurch.

- By Keira Stephenson of the Westport News

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