Environment groups frustrate Bathurst
Mon, 03 Sep 2012 4:45p.m.
By Pattrick Smellie
Resource consents have cost would-be opencast coal miner Bathurst Resources $15 million so far, with a month of appeal hearings still to come and the potential for further challenges.
Bathurst chief executive Hamish Bohannan released the figure during in a speech to last week's AUSIMM mining industry conference in Queenstown, where reports suggest the mood of the mining community was sour on the environmental opposition and regulatory hurdles facing their industry.
The speech notes were released to the NZX today, coinciding with an 8.5 percent fall in the Bathurst share price to 43 cents, down almost two-thirds on the $1.22 high in the last 12 months.
Bathurst has spent some $250 million to date developing its Buller Coal Project, to take high grade coking coal, used in steel-making, from the Denniston Plateau above Westport for export.
Mr Bohannan has taken heat from his mainly Australian investor base, who were originally sold on the project because it involved world-class, high-value coal and was close to infrastructure.
He said New Zealand was gaining a reputation among foreign investors of being "too green" for resource projects.
The company received resource consents in August last year for the first stage of the project, the Escarpment mine, which is projected to produce one million tonnes of coal a year at its peak.
Appeals by local and environmental groups have been lodged, with Environment Court hearings due in late October, and a decision early next year.
Mr Bohannan said investors expect environmental groups to "appeal any new mining decision" and believe that "New Zealanders on the whole oppose coal".
They also see the court system as creating indefinite delays with no other option for consenting.
"The regulatory processes here are too complex," he says.
The Escarpment initiative is now 18 months behind schedule, with mining next July the earliest likely start time.
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