'No firm decisions' on Solid Energy land

The future of the pilot briquetting plant in Mataura and land owned by Solid Energy remains up in the air.

Earlier this year, the Government revealed the state-owned mining company was struggling under a $389 million debt. Since then, Solid Energy has been restructuring and consolidating its interests.

Solid Energy chairman Mike Ford has said several times Southland farmland bought to support the company's lignite-upgrading plans was likely to be sold.

The Otago Daily Times understands that most of the land is a 750ha block run as two dairy farms west of Mataura. Another 170ha dairy block is at Waitane.

The remaining 80ha is made up of relatively small surplus land parcels around the country.

Solid Energy spokesman Bryn Somerville said that over the past few months, people had been speculating in the media about how the land might be marketed.

''It is just speculation. No firm decisions [have been made] on this or any alternate strategy yet.''

He said some previous owners could be offered the first right of refusal, but that depended on what was agreed between Solid Energy and the vendor when a piece of land was bought.

In June, Solid Energy and GTL Energy revealed plans to run the lignite-to-briquette plant for an extended period to allow GTL Energy to demonstrate the production capabilities of the plant and its technology, and allow for product combustion testing and handling.

The two companies have been in discussions since May - when the plant was commissioned - over the commercial arrangements for the plant's ongoing operations.

The pilot briquetting plant in Craig Rd, south of Mataura, was the first of three projects planned by Solid Energy for lignite from the Waimumu, Croydon and Mataura areas.

The briquetting process removes the high amount of moisture in lignite to make briquettes, which burn hotter and more cleanly to produce more energy.

Mr Somerville said there had been no change with the Mataura site, and no time limit had been set for its sale.

- helena.dereus@odt.co.nz


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