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DOC must block open cast mine

DOC must block open cast mine

Forest & Bird said today the Department of Conservation must refuse access to allow destructive open cast mining on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau after a report highlighted the unique environment of the area.

Commissioners appointed by the West Coast Regional Council and the Buller District Council announced on Friday they had granted resource consents to Buller Coal, a subsidiary of Australian mining firm Bathurst Resources, for a 200 hectare open cast mine on the Denniston Plateau and associated processing facilities.

But the commissioners said they had come to their decision with “considerable reservations and anguish” and the overwhelming factor in granting the consents was the economic benefits to the Buller area.

The mine will be on conservation land and the Department of Conservation (DOC) now has to consider whether to grant the mining company access to the land and a concession for its operation.

“Under legislation, DOC has to focus only on the conservation values of the area rather than any short term economic gains from mining, so clearly it has no choice but to reject access for Bathurst,” Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin said.

“The commissioners themselves highlighted the unique ecological value of the Denniston Plateau and the importance of protecting the area.”

The Denniston and nearby Stockton plateaux lie 600-1100 m above sea level northeast of Westport. The combination of climatic conditions and geology has created a complex array of ecosystems found only on this corner of the South Island. They are home to nationally endangered species, such as the great spotted kiwi, the fernbird, and the carnivorous giant land snail, Powelliphanta patrickensis.

In their decision, the commissioners said an assessment to ensure protection of the best examples of the ecosystems on the Denniston Plateau was needed before further mining applications could be heard.

“There is no doubt that there will be further applications to opencast mine coal on the Denniston Plateau and a cumulative assessment of the total loss and protection.

(in perpetuity) of the best examples of the Buller Coal Measures ecosystems must be undertaken before any further consents are granted,” they said.

“From the evidence presented to us, it is abundantly clear that large scale mining is poised to invade the entire Denniston Plateau coal reserves which if unchecked, will totally destroy the ecosystems which are present.”

Forest & Bird shares these fears and has proposed a 5900 hectare reserve on and around the Denniston Plateau to ensure the protection of the unique landscape and endangered species, Debs Martin said.

Forest & Bird is considering the grounds for appeal of the resource consents to the Environment Court.

ENDS

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