Miner vehemently opposes conservation plan

A coal-mining company group has vehemently opposed the Department of Conservation's proposal to create a multimillion-dollar conservation park in the St Bathans, Hawkdun, Ida, Ewe and St Marys Ranges.

The 65,000ha park is Crown-owned and managed by the department, which plans to develop it into the Oteake Conservation Park and have it open to the public for recreational use.

However, a submission presented by L&M Coal Seam Gas Ltd and L&M Central Otago Lignite Ltd to Doc opposed the proposal.

The proposed park would cover land in the St Bathans, Hawkdun and Ida Ranges and appears to include land over which L&M Coal Seam Gas and L&M Central Otago Lignite hold exploration permits.

While the importance of protecting high-altitude landscape was acknowledged by the L&M group's companies, the creation of a conservation park in its present form was not supported because of the potential for conflict with the L&M companies' mining interests.

Several permits had been granted by Crown Minerals for exploration for Crown-owned coal (lignite) and coal seam gas.

The Hawkdun Coalfield contains an estimated one billion tonnes of lignite rank coal and has the potential to contain up to 50 petajoules of coal seam gas, the submission said.

The proposed park boundaries overlap some of the land over which L&M holds exploration permits.

The submission showed the L&M Companies were concerned that the proposed park may seriously compromise the possibility to develop these resources, both within the area of overlap and potentially over the whole coalfield.

"The proposed main access road from St Bathans and the four-wheel-drive track beneath the Hawkdun Range are at least within the coalfield area.

"Also, the location of the proposed Doc camping ground, car park and interpretation sites appears to be within the coalfield limits and would be within the footprint of the proposed coal mine.

"Mining will involve large-scale earthmoving which would render the proposed camping and parking facilities, as well as land to the south, unusable for these activities for the time that mining was carried out."

L&M suggested the park's boundaries be lifted to eliminate the overlap with the coal resource, and the proposed camping ground, car park and interpretation sites should be relocated outside the limit of the coalfield.

The submission concluded the hearing of 57 submissions to determine whether it was justifiable to gazette the existing land managed by the department.

The hearings panel consisted of West Coast Conservancy Community relations manager Chris Hickford, Otago conservancy solicitor Pene Williams and community relations officer Bruce Hill.


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