BUSINESSDESK: The Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society will press ahead with appeals against resource consents for Bathurst Resources' proposed open cast coal mine on conservation land in the Denniston Plateau region, above Greymouth.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce called on Forest & Bird and a West Coast environmental action network to drop appeals against consents granted last August, citing the need for West Coast mining jobs after state-owned Solid Energy announced the mothballing of its Spring Creek mine.
Some 220 of the 440 job losses at Solid Energy will be at Spring Creek. Bathurst says it would employ around 400 people at the Escarpment mine, the first of several Bathurst plans in the area.
However, Forest & Bird says Mr Joyce "is being opportunistic in deflecting the blame for the mismanagement of the Spring Creek mine".
"I feel for the people who are losing their jobs, obviously," Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell told BusinessDesk.
"That's a real issue. But mining is a boom-and-bust industry with a long history of it on the West Coast. It's one of the reasons their economy has never been as strong as they would like.
"The long-term future is having industries that are much more sustainable."
He questioned also whether Mr Joyce's intervention in favour of Bathurst's proposals could put the minister foul of the legal process playing out through resource consent appeals, and the statutory process that would follow if Bathurst succeeded and sought ministerial position for an access agreement to Department of Conservation land.
"There would be a serious question, given his public advocacy, about whether such a decision has been influenced by government policy," Mr Hackwell says.
Bathurst chief executive Hamish Bohannan has reported frustrations among shareholders over delays to the Bathurst consent process, saying the company has spent $15 million so far on consenting issues.