The Australian miner’s project was granted resource consent in August 2011, but has been delayed for almost two years due to legal action, predominantly due to the mine’s location on conservation land.
The 100ha project on the Denniston Plateau has resources of 5.8Mt and is expected to produce as much as 1Mtpa of bituminous coal over a six-year mine life.
The court has indicated it will consent the opencast mine, a decision welcomed by Bathurst but strongly criticized by the NZ Green Party and environmental group Forest and Bird.
Forest and Bird top of the south field officer Debs Martin said the organisation was seriously considering its legal options.
''We are concerned that the court has backed away from some of the requirements it placed on Bathurst Resources in its first interim decision, without any real change to justify that shift,'' Martin said.
The Greens immediately held a rally in Wellington to protest the mine, saying it would destroy ''one of the most unique native ecosystems in the world''.
Bathurst managing director Hamish Bohannan said the Environment Court consent was subject to amendments to the wording of certain conditions, but it would ''not be difficult to address''.
''The court has made it clear that consent will be forthcoming,'' Bohannan said in a statement Thursday.
''Once consent is granted, Bathurst can move into the first stages of operations,'' he said.
But Martin said the decision still leaves Bathurst “far from the point at which the company can start mining.”
“The overall outcome also still depends on the Supreme Court’s decision as to whether climate change is a relevant consideration under the RMA, and the Court of Appeal’s decision about whether to take into account the cumulative impact on the plateau of Bathurst’s proposed mine, and the nearby Sullivan Mine,” she said.
In May, Minister of Conservation Nick Smith granted the company access to the plateau in return for a $22 million compensation package.
The Green’s mining spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the court’s decision was “simply immoral”
"This mine is not in the interests of New Zealanders. Bathurst's planned open cast coal mine on conservation land will destroy habitat and increase carbon emissions while the profits go offshore."