More delays for Bathurst Resources

Like the multiple legal challenges faced by Bathurst Resources, the way is barred to this...
Like the multiple legal challenges faced by Bathurst Resources, the way is barred to this historic underground coal mine on the Escarpment area of the Denniston Plateau, above Westport on the West Coast. Photo by Simon Hartley.
West Coast coal mine developer Bathurst Resources faces further potential delays to production with the lodgement of a Court of Appeal challenge yesterday by the West Coast Environment Network.

Environmentalists had earlier said the Denniston Plateau project would be the major focus for litigation this year and have fought Bathurst through the High Court, Environment Court and now to the Court of Appeal.

One challenge has been against issuance of consents a year ago by two West Coast councils, to be heard in an Environment Court hearing at the end of the month, and the other is on whether climate change issues should be heard in that same court.

Bathurst shares have declined steadily from a high of $1.70 in April last year to trade yesterday unchanged at 46c, reflecting investor impatience in the continued delays to production, brokers have said.

The Denniston Plateau project, of which Bathurst has spent about $250 million so far in acquisitions, development and small scale mining, wants to mine 4 million tonnes of specialist hard coking coal annually for export, from an estimated 80 million tonne resource.

The West Coast Environment Network, Forest and Bird and other environmentalists counter the plateau contains rare flora and fauna which will be destroyed by opencast mining and can not be regenerated, as Bathurst claims.

Bathurst chief executive Hamish Bohannan has been openly frustrated by the repeated delays through legal challenges, with estimates the project is up to a year behind.

He has said recently New Zealand has become "too green", in that the several court rulings in Bathurst's favour keep being appealed, with the likely outcome they could end up in the Supreme Court.

Yesterday, Mr Bohannan said Bathurst remained confident the declaration received in the Environment Court, and later affirmed by the High Court, would be upheld by the Court of Appeal.

West Coast Environment Network spokeswoman Lynley Hargreaves said the group had intended to call evidence from Nasa's Dr James Hansen at the October Environment Court hearing on the Escarpment mine.

However, Bathurst and state-owned enterprise Solid Energy had won declarations from the Environment and High Courts that climate change be excluded from coal-mining hearings, prompting lodgement of the Court of Appeal challenge.

"Resource consent hearings already take other complex matters into account; climateimpacts need to be weighed up too.

"If they're not, then we risk the CO2 from this coal, which is unlikely to come under any carbon tax, emissions trading scheme or Kyoto target, never being considered at all," she said in a statement yesterday.



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