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Further snail find suspends ridgeline mining

23 February 2006

Further snail find suspends ridgeline mining work at Stockton
Miner extends permit application for Stockton ridgeline

Coal producer, Solid Energy, has suspended all mining operations on the Mt Augustus ridgeline area at its Stockton Opencast Mine in the Buller. This follows the company’s discovery of Powelliphanta snails in areas where they had previously not been found.

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

Thirteen people employed in erecting rockfall protection barriers on this area of the ridgeline were stood down on Friday and have now been temporarily moved to other work. Solid Energy has assessed the consequences for the mine, its contractors and its workforce.

The company has 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 long-standing 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 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 programme.

As much of the snail habitat as possible will be transferred to an area adjacent to the new site by precise excavation in clumps of vegetation and attached soil (called "direct transfer"). Solid Energy will continue intensive predator control to enhance the snail habitat. Translocation and direct transfer have both recently been approved by the Environment Court as acceptable methods for the nearby Cypress Mine.

ENDS

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