Solid Energy denies intimidation claim

SOLID Energy chief Dr Don Elder has denied an allegation from protesters campaigning against its proposed Cypress opencut mine in New Zealand that company security guards had sought to intimidate them at a recent demonstration.

Angie Tomlinson

The Save Happy Valley group, whose members took part in the demonstration, said on its website that protesters had been intimidated by Solid Energy security guards, who had filmed the group against their expressed wishes and demanded personal details for the purpose of issuing “pre-emptive” trespass notices.

Elder said the claims of intimidation were “just another publicity stunt”

He said about 30 protesters had arrived on the South Island site of the proposed Cypress mine on Saturday November 19, and safety concerns had been behind a decision to instruct Solid Energy security guards to warn the group not to enter the adjacent operational Stockton Mine.

“Solid Energy had instructed the guards to advise the group that it was happy for them to camp in that location, but they were not to enter the adjacent operational Stockton Mine and if they had any problems they should contact Solid Energy’s Ngakawau office,” Elder said.

“The security guards also issued a trespass notice to one member of the group and verbally warned the remainder that the company would take legal action if they entered the mine site as this could pose a significant safety risk.

“Despite this, on Sunday morning about 20 people from the group entered Stockton Mine. Our security guards asked them to leave the site which they eventually did after an hour.

“The security guards videoed all their encounters with the campaigners to ensure that there was an accurate record of what had happened.”

Elder said Solid Energy’s decision to take pre-emptive action in contacting the group was based on a number of incidents over the past two years in which members of the group had carried out stunts that placed in danger company staff, contractors and themselves.

Controversy has surrounded the development of the Cypress mine, which is located on the habitat of a giant snail population. Solid Energy has proposed relocating the snails.

The company was granted resource consents in June 2004 for the mine but a number of conservation groups subsequently filed appeals.

Solid Energy says it will undertake extensive predator control around the mine site for 30 years, with particular attention paid to the great spotted kiwi and the land snail.