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Snail relocation has all necessary consents

16 October 2006

Snail relocation and mining at Stockton has all necessary consents says Solid Energy

Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd believes it has all the necessary consents and permissions required to capture and relocate native land snails on the ridgeline of Stockton Opencast Mine in the Buller and to undertake coal mining within the Stockton Coal Mining Licence (CML) area.

Save Happy Valley Coalition are alleging in the Environment Court in Christchurch this week that the company requires land use consents to mine within the CML and for adjacent Department of Conservation land and that it does not have necessary water-related consents to cover certain activities. This is despite the fact that the Buller District and West Coast Regional Councils have confirmed Solid Energy's view that no further consents are required.

Solid Energy senior managers and experts will give evidence as to their understanding that the company requires no further consents to mine within the CML and that it has done everything it possibly can to protect the native land snail population at Mt Augustus.

Solid Energy was granted Wildlife Permits by the Minister of Conservation and Associate Minister of Energy in February and April 2006 to move the snails by hand and to carry out direct transfer of the snail habitat to an area which will not be mined. Under the April permit, Solid Energy is required to find at least 250 snails from across the permit area after handing over 50 snails to the Department of Conservation for a Solid Energy-funded captive breeding programme. To date more than 800 live Powelliphanta ‘Augustus” snails have been collected on the ridgeline of Stockton Opencast Mine in the Buller, leading experts to conclude that the snail population is much greater than initially estimated and is likely to exceed 3,000.

The Stockton Coal Mining Licence (CML) was granted to Solid Energy in 1987 for a period of 40 years, following the decision by the Crown to sell part of the assets of State Coal Mines to Coal Corporation of New Zealand Ltd, as Solid Energy was then known. Solid Energy has exclusive rights to mine coal over the 2310 hectares of the licence area.

Solid Energy’s understanding, which is consistent with practice adopted by other holders of coal mining licences and mining licences and confirmed by the Buller District and Regional Councils, is that the CML is a code and that no land use consents are required for mining activities. This principle has been established by settled case law. Solid Energy holds a number of resource consents for various water diversions and discharges associated with the mine. The West Coast Regional and Buller District Councils have confirmed its view that no additional resource consents were required.

Solid Energy has carried out extensive technical work to determine how to mine the ridgeline safely and without impacting neighbouring DOC land. The technical solutions specifically designed for mining along the Stockton ridgeline are pioneering in the New Zealand mining industry., At a cost of more than $30 million, these include silt fences and rock fall protection barriers erected in places on the coal floor. During mining, bench cuts will be constructed on the down slope, where the terrain allows, to contain loose rocks and provide a path for any water to run back into the Stockton mine site. Monitoring equipment has been installed along the area. .

Save Happy Valley Coalition has also applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the Ministerial decision to grant the Wildlife Permits, with a hearing date set down for 6 December 2006 in Wellington.

ENDS

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