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Minister breaks own rules in easing Bathurst’s deal

Minister breaks own rules in easing Bathurst’s compensation deal

Forest & Bird says Bathurst Resources should be held to the conditions of both its consent and access agreements that required it to pay millions of dollars in compensation for the damage its open cast coal mine will do to the Denniston Plateau.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith has announced that the company will have its schedule of compensation payments relaxed, because the slump in international coal prices has forced Bathurst to scale back its plans.

“The Conservation Minister is not applying his own logic to the issue. Last month he turned down a plan to build a monorail through conservation land in Southland. He said he did this on the basis that the economics didn’t stack up, that there was a real risk that the scheme could fall over, and that the taxpayer would be left to clean up,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“Last year he declined permission for the Fiordland tunnel, for the same reasons.

“Bathurst Resources said in court that it couldn’t mine the Denniston Plateau if the international coal price was below US$140 a tonne. The international coal price is now around US$120 a tonne, yet Nick Smith today announced that Bathurst has received its final go ahead to start mining. And at the same time the company has been given another two years to pay all of the $22 million in compensation required of it – from five years to seven.

“Bathurst’s share price fell to an all time low of five cents a share on Tuesday. Just as with the monorail, there is a real risk the company will do irreparable damage to the Denniston Plateau, and then go bust.

“Solid Energy has been laying people off from the adjacent Stockton coking coal mine. The government – which says that it knows business - should not be bending over backyards for the sake of a struggling overseas-owned mining company,” says Kevin Hackwell.

ends

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