The development will involve construction of two new mining pits and associated infrastructure, extending the mine’s operational area to the east into the Upper Waimangaroa mining permit.
The Cypress pits will contribute about 5 million tonnes of coking coal to Stockton’s production over about 10 years.
Solid expects large-scale development to begin in 2010, anticipating first coal from the northern Cypress pit in late 2011.
Solid CEO Don Elder said it was critical the company started on the 30-month development program so coal from the Cypress extension was available to blend with other coals from the Stockton Plateau.
He said this was critical for the ongoing life of Stockton mine over the next 20 years.
A substantial environmental monitoring and data collection program at the new site is due to begin within the next three months.
This work, which includes mapping animal populations, predator and weed control, water quality and climate monitoring, and biodiversity work, is required to meet the extensive conditions of the resource consenting for the development.
“The conditions and expectations for Cypress environmental management and rehabilitation are challenging, but we have proven techniques and process for this and we are confident we can meet them,” Elder said.
Stockton directly employs 500 people and up to 200 consultants and short-term contractors.
As well as the Cypress development, the company is investing $NZ100 million in a processing plant that will separate 10Mt of coal from waste material and is finalising plans to open cast mine the former Millerton underground mine inside the Stockton licence area.