The pre-hearing conference will lay down the formal timetable for the court hearing and will establish key matters and submission items that are required to be completed before the court process begins.
The Escarpment project is situated on the Denniston Plateau in New Zealand’s South Island and could potentially produce up to 2Mtpa of coal.
The company is hoping to begin mining on the plateau by mid-2012 but three appeals to the Environment Court against the proposed mine are preventing the projects development.
Last August Bathurst was granted resource consents for Escarpment, prompting West Coast ENT, the Fairdown-Whareatea Residents Association and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand to appeal the decision.
West Coast ENT, an environmental group, is fighting the mine’s consent on the grounds of ecological damage from the proposed mine.
It said the open cut mine would involve digging up a rare landscape and threaten species that lived on the Denniston Plateau.
The proposed mining area for Escarpment is home to a number of rare species.
However the area has had a history of mining, with open cut mining taking place at the adjacent Stockton Plateau.
The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society is advocating for the plateau to remain protected.
“An open cast coal mine will wipe out the ecology of the Denniston Plateau,” RFBPS president Andrew Cutler said.
“This one of a kind environment is home to some extraordinary plants and animals, and is already conservation land.”
The Environment Court will try to settle the dispute through mediation, which has been a proven method in the past.