More coal job losses at Stockton

Solid Energy has signalled further redundancies at its Stockton mine in the face of an ongoing decline in global coal prices.

The debt-laden company shed about 450 staff last year in the wake of a financial crisis that saw the state-owned enterprise post a $40 million loss, followed by revelations it owed about $390 million. To continue operations it may yet require a $100 million Government bail-out in the form of a short-term loan.

About 500 jobs have now been scrapped across the country, but hardest hit has been the West Coast with the loss of more than 250. Separately, on the West Coast, gold miner Oceana Gold's Reefton operations may be mothballed by mid-2015, with 260 jobs at stake.

Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford announced yesterday up to 45 management and support services jobs at its Stockton mine could go, reducing from 186 roles to 141.

The 45 job losses are from 15 actual redundancies and the balance of 30 jobs from current vacancies, which have been under a ''hiring freeze'' since August.

Mr Ford highlighted that coal prices, for export quality specialist hard-coking coal crucial for steel manufacturing, were at $US330 ($NZ418) per tonne in mid-2011, $US225 ($NZ285) in mid-2012 and at present about $US131 ($NZ166).

''We have a good business provided we can keep bringing our costs down and operate within the volatile pricing of the international coal market,'' he said in a statement.

Stockton cost-cutting also included simplifying mining operations and spending less on exploration and resource-proving, and other activities around new pit development.

The Government remains in negotiations with Solid Energy's bankers on its capital structure, with Stockton central in that role, Mr Ford said.

''We remain confident the business has a good operating future ... and we're absolutely committed to the Buller and our Stockton mining operation,'' he said.

- simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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