Pike River coal mine officially opened today

  • Gerry Brownlee
Energy and Resources

The Minister of Energy and Resources, and Economic Development, Gerry Brownlee, today opened the new Pike River coal mine in the Paparoa Ranges, 50 kilometres north-east of Greymouth.

"New Zealand's mineral resources are a significant contributor to our economic prosperity." 

Mr Brownlee says the Pike River coalfield is New Zealand's largest known deposit of hard coking coal, with an in-ground resource of almost 60 million tonnes in the main Brunner seam.

"The project will recover an estimated 18 million tonnes of coal over its 18-year life. That will make a significant contribution to our exports and our economy, particularly on the West Coast.

"Around 150 people are expected to be employed by Pike River when the mine reaches full production in July 2009.  The mine will also provide employment for another 450 people in support and servicing industries."

Mr Brownlee says it is particularly pleasing that the Department of Conservation has recently presented Pike River Coal with a certificate recognising  'the environmental consideration it has demonstrated'.

"The successful development of this project required a carefully crafted marriage of good mining practice and environmental good management.  No trucks will be necessary to carry the coal down the mountain - reducing noise, dust, and damage to the access road - and the mine's surface footprint has been kept to a minimum to reduce the mine's environmental impact.

"The Pike River coal mine is a good example of mining and the environment successfully co-existing."

Background

The potential of the Pike River coal field was first established around 1980 following a major coal exploration programme. There was some scepticism that the development would ever come off. Geology, access, environmental and economic constraints all contributed towards making this an extremely challenging project. Consenting and developing the mine took more than 10 years.

The mine went through a rigorous environmental examination during the resource consent process and in gaining access from the Minister of Conservation. DOC recently presented Pike River Coal with a certificate recognising "the environmental consideration it has demonstrated".

The mine has a small footprint, has minimised the effects of its operations on native vegetation and waterways, and has a conservative approach over the amount of coal mined to protect the surface from effects related to subsidence, by mining only 30% of the deposit