16 Feb 2018

Bid to stop new coal mine overturned in High Court

8:00 am on 16 February 2018

One of several legal attempts to block a new coal mining venture on the West Coast has failed, but campaigners say the fight to stop the mine is far from finished.

 The proposed mine site at Mt Te Kuha near Westport

The site of the proposed mine. Photo: Neil Silverwood

The mine would be dug at Te Kuha, about 12km up the Buller River from Westport.

It would employ 58 people and mine 250,000 tonnes of coal annually.

The scheme is being pushed by Stevenson mining, which has teamed up with previous holders of a mining licence for the area, Rangitira Developments.

It won resource consent in November from Buller District and West Coast Regional Councils, which has been appealed by Forest and Bird.

But Forest and Bird fought a separate legal campaign over an earlier decision by Buller District Council to allow the mining company access to its Water Conservation Reserve.

The council then rescinded that decision after being threatened with legal action from Forest and Bird.

Rangitira replied by challenging that reversal in the High Court.

That case has now produced a verdict, and it went against Forest and Bird and in favour of the mining company.

The court argued the original approval of access - granted under the Crown Minerals Act - had higher legal standing than the Reserves Act that Forest and Bird had relied on to block access.

Forest and Bird said it was disappointed and it was considering taking the case to appeal.

Its other appeal - against the actual granting of resource consent - awaits a trial date, and is joined by Coal Action Network Aotearoa.  

An extra potential hurdle awaits the mining company, as it would need some access across conservation land.

The new government has said it did not want any new mines on conservation land.

Twelve hectares of the mine is on conservation land and an access arrangement under the Crown Minerals Act is required for the mine to proceed. 

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