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BUSINESSDESK: Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has called on the NZ Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and West Coast environmentalists to drop their objections to Bathurst Resources' Escarpment Mine project, saying it will create new jobs on the West Coast.
"If we are serious about jobs and providing incomes on the West Coast then objectors should stop getting in the way of this immediate opportunity to create those jobs," Mr Joyce says.
Bathurst managing director Hamish Bohannan says his company is optimistic it will be mining coking coal on the Denniston Plateau above Westport by July next year, assuming it prevails in appeals against its resource consents.
The hearing is due to start on October 29 and run through until mid-December, with both Forest & Bird and the West Coast Environmental Network challenging the mining resource consents for the Escarpment open-cut mine.
"The Escarpment mine is an open-cast mining project that is ready to go and would provide 225 jobs and incomes for workers and their families on the West Coast straight away," Mr Joyce says.
"The developer is being held up from opening the mine by on-going litigation that has gone through the Environment Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal."
The consent process had already taken "a staggering seven years".
Mr Joyce's comments come a day after state-owned coal miner Solid Energy announced widespread job cuts as it puts its Spring Creek mine on the West Coast into care and maintenance and reduced production at its Huntly East Mine.
Spring Creek is one of the biggest employers for the town of Greymouth.
Prime Minister John Key this week reiterated that Solid Energy would not be one of the first state-owned energy companies to be sold down because of is difficulties.
Bathurst has already agreed to a range of environmental initiatives intended to offset or mitigate the impact of the Escarpment mine, which is expected to produce one million tonnes of coal a year for export to steel mills.