An Australian mining company has been given approval to explore more of the South Island's west coast for coal deposits.
One of Comet Ridge Ltd's permits now allows it to explore nearly 5,000 square kilometres, which will be used in conjunction with a smaller permit it already has further south.
Managing director Tor McCaul says the joining of the two permits makes exploration easier and will allow the possible development of coal seam gas resources near Greymouth.
Mr McCaul says the methane gas extracted from the coal seams would be used to generate electricity and would lessen the local community's dependence on the main power grid.
The company says the area it has expanded into is already a well- known coal mining area.