11 Dec 2010

Solid Energy can't see new mine happening soon

7:00 pm on 11 December 2010

The coal producer Solid Energy says it's unlikely to be able to get a new mining operation up and running in time to retain the workers left without jobs after the Pike River disaster.

The Grey District Mayor, Tony Kokshoorn, has been hoping to convince the Government to fast-track resource consents for a potential new Solid Energy coalmine in the Paparoa Range.

Mr Kokshoorn says more mining jobs on the West Coast are needed now that Pike River Coal has announced it will significantly reduce the numbers of its employees following the deaths of 29 men underground.

A Solid Energy spokesperson says, however, that while there are long-term plans to open a mine in the area, the consent process will take years. Decisions must also be made on the feasibility of getting the coal out of the ground and finding markets for it.

Mix of open-cast and tunnels

Mr Kokshoorn says the mine would be a mix of open-cast and tunnels in the hills behind the old Strongman mine, the site of a fatal explosion in 1967.

It would be located in the same range as Pike River, which is not working because the bodies of the 29 men are still in the mine.

Mr Kokshoorn, who will meet Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee this week, says there is a big contingent of South African miners in Greymouth who were hard to attract and he wants to do everything in his power to keep them in the district.

Solid Energy says it's always looking for experienced underground miners and may be able to employ some of the Pike River workers.