Snails put stop to operations at Stockton

MINING operations have been suspended at Solid Energy’s Stockton opencut mine in New Zealand’s South Island after the company discovered Powelliphanta snails in areas where they had previously not been found.
Snails put stop to operations at Stockton Snails put stop to operations at Stockton Snails put stop to operations at Stockton Snails put stop to operations at Stockton Snails put stop to operations at Stockton

Surveying snail population at Mt Augustus, Stockton opencast mine. Courtesy Solid Energy.

Angie Tomlinson

Solid Energy has now expanded its application to the Department of Conservation for a wildlife permit to move the snails, to include this and surrounding areas at the Stockton mine.

Operations were suspended at the Mt Augustus ridgeline area, the company said yesterday.

Thirteen people employed in erecting rockfall protection barriers on the area were stood down on Friday and have now been temporarily moved to other work.

Solid Energy said it had discussed with its staff and contractors the likely implications if the permit application is further delayed or declined.

The ridgeline contains premium coking coal with an estimated value of $400 million. This coal is contracted, with scheduled shipments, to longstanding international customers.

Solid Energy applied to the Department of Conservation in August 2005 for a permit to move Powelliphanta snails by hand from ridgeline mining areas where the snails had been found. As the result of High Court proceedings in December 2005, Solid Energy amended that application to add “direct transfer” of their habitat as well.

Solid Energy proposes to move by hand as many snails as possible to a similar habitat approximately 800m from the source location, after providing DOC with at least 50 individuals for captive management and breeding. Solid Energy will fund the captive management program.

Solid Energy said as much of the snail habitat as possible would be transferred to an area adjacent to the new site by precise excavation in clumps of vegetation and attached soil (direct transfer).

The company said it would continue predator control around the snails’ habitat.

Translocation and direct transfer were both recently approved by the Environment Court as acceptable methods for the nearby Cypress Mine.

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