Bathurst awaits Escarpment decision

THE High Court appeal of resource consents for Bathurst Resources’ Escarpment mine has concluded.
Bathurst awaits Escarpment decision Bathurst awaits Escarpment decision Bathurst awaits Escarpment decision Bathurst awaits Escarpment decision Bathurst awaits Escarpment decision

The Escarpment project

Staff Reporter

Australia-based, dual-listed Bathurst proposed to build the coal mine in New Zealand’s Denniston Plateau in 2011 and has been at the centre of a legal battle since.

An appeal on two points of law was lodged by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society New Zealand against the preliminary decision of the Environment Court on the relevance of Solid Energy’s Sullivan permit.

A further appeal on 12 points of law was lodged on the Environment Court’s interim decision indicating it would likely grant resource consent for Bathurst’s Escarpment project.

Forest and Bird has since withdrawn seven points of law from the appeal.

In a statement on Monday Bathurst said the hearing had concluded and a decision was expected to be announced before June 12.

“The conclusion of this hearing brings us another step closer to completing the consenting process,” Bathurst managing director Hamish Bohannan said in the statement.

The court's interim ruling found that even after mining rehabilitation, the Denniston Plateau ecosystem would be "less fit, rich and diverse".

Forest and Bird appealed the decision, stating that the plateau was a protected area that contained endangered species.

“Our aim is to ensure this area is included in schedule 4, protecting it from being mined in the future,” Forest and Bird top of the south field officer Debs Martin said in 2011.

“The plateaux are among the rarest habitats in New Zealand and we need to give them the protection they deserve.”

Last week Bathurst was granted an access arrangement from the Department of Conservation for the Escarpment project.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced his approval for an access agreement for the Escarpment mining project under the Crown Minerals Act.

Smith clarified in the statement that the area was classified as general stewardship land, which the lowest legal status of protection of land managed by the department.

He said the area was not a national park or conservation park, nor did it have any particular reserve status.

The access approval is for a mine area of 106 hectares of the 2026ha that comprise the Denniston Plateau and, under the terms of the approval, Bathurst will pay $22 million as compensation for “the loss of conservation values” in what Smith called “the largest ever compensation package negotiated by DOC for a mine or other commercial venture”.

It would fund pest and predator control over 25,000ha of the Heaphy River catchment in the Kahurangi National Park, 4500ha on and around the Denniston Plateau, as well as for historic projects on the plateau itself.

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