Escarpment Mine Project
The Escarpment Mine Project is a proposed opencast coal mine planned for the Mount Rochfort Conservation Area on the Denniston Plateau on the West Coast of New Zealand in the vicinity of the disused Escarpment Mine. Bathurst Resources Limited (through its subsidiary company Buller Coal Limited) intends to extract and export between one and four million tonnes of coal a year from open cast mining in an area of 200 hectares of conservation land on the southern Denniston Plateau. The proposed mine would be the second largest opencast coal mine in New Zealand after Solid Energy's Stockton Mine on the Stockton Plateau. Environmental groups such as Forest and Bird and the West Coast Environment Network oppose the project.
In March 2010, the Perth-based coal company Bathurst Resources announced it was buying L&M Coal Holdings' hard-coking coal exploration assets and mining permit areas in the Buller District of the West Coast. In June 2010, Bathurst Resources announced plans to develop an opencast coking and thermal coal mine for exporting in 2011 in a joint venture with Christchurch-based company L&M. The proposal had an exploration target of between 17 and 23 million tonnes of coal in the Denniston area. In early September 2010, Bathurst Resources confirmed plans for a US$57 million hard coking coal opencast mine on the Denniston plateau above Westport. The plan included a slurry pipeline to carry coal down the steep plateau slope from a processing plant to a rail load-out 10 km from Westport. Managing Director Hamish Bohannan said a recent feasibility study had been definitive and had confirmed the technical and economic feasibility of the project.
In March 2012, Forest and Bird organised a bioblitz as part of their campaign against the mining project. In November 2012, Massey University scientist Steve Trewick said that a new species of cave weta had been identified in the March 2012 field-trip to the Denniston Plateau.
In September 2010, L&M Coal Limited applied for 24 resource consents for the Escarpment Mine Project from both the Buller District Council and West Coast Regional Council. Bathurst Resources Limited later purchased L&M Coal Limited and renamed it Buller Coal Limited. Bathurst also has to apply for and be granted an access agreement and a concession from the Department of Conservation to excavate the coal and to have a coal processing plant within a conservation area. Environmentalists have questioned the lack of ability to make public consultation on the application for an access agreement.
In August 2011, after a public submission and hearing process, the West Coast Regional Council and Buller District Council granted Buller Coal Limited the resource consents required under the Resource Management Act.
In September 2011, the West Coast Environment Network and Forest and Bird appealed the granting of the consents to the Environment Court because of the likely impacts on rare landscapes and habitats for threatened species in the conservation estate and because of the climate change impacts from the carbon dioxide released from the coal. The Environment Court hearing of the appeals of the resource consents began on 29 October 2012 and ended on 18 December 2012.
In March 2012, Buller Coal and Solid Energy initiated a hearing in the Environment Court to get a declaration that for the appeal of the Bathurst consents, the Environment Court has no jurisdiction to consider the global warming effects of the greenhouse gas discharges from the downstream combustion of the coal. In May 2012, the Environment Court made a declaration that the climate change effects from the combustion of coal from the mine could not be considered as part of the effects of the land use consents for the mine. The West Coast Environment Network and Forest and Bird appealed the Environment Court's decision to the High Court. In August 2012, the High Court upheld the decision. In September 2012, the West Coast Environment Network appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal. On 29 November 2012, the Supreme Court gave leave to hear the appeal in place of the Court of Appeal.
The project has both supporters and critics within New Zealand. The resource sector lobby group Straterra describes the project as a "green mining case study" that "seeks to achieve a net positive benefit for the environment". 
In March 2012, a crowd of environmental activists and Green Party MPs rallying against coal mining greeted Prime Minister John Key Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley with boos and jeers as they attended the opening of Bathurst Resources’ new Wellington offices. On 25 September 2012, Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce called on Forest and Bird and West Coast Environment Network to withdraw their appeals.
- New Zealand Topographical Map (Map). 1-50:000. Topo50. LINZ. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
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- "Decision of the Commissioner appointed by West Coast Regional Council and Buller District Council: Application by Buller Coal Limited for resource consents for the Denniston Plateau Escarpment Mine Project" (PDF). West Coast Regional Council and Buller District Council. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- "West Coast group appeals coal consents". West Coast Environment Network. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Martin, Debs (17 September 2011). "Forest & Bird appeals Denniston mine consent". Forest and Bird. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
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- Hartley, Simon (29 October 2012). "Environment Court to consider Denniston plateau mining project". The Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- Bayer, Kurt (18 December 2012). "Cases complete in bid to stop Denniston mine". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
- Wood, Alan (27 March 2012). "Miners call for court to ignore climate change". Stuff. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
Buller Coal, owned by Perth-based Bathurst Resources, has made an application for a court declaration under section 311 of the Act that decision makers cannot take into account greenhouse gas discharges when considering a resource consents application.
- Berry, Michael (2 May 2012). "No go for climate change in appeals". Stuff. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- Musson, Deidre (29 May 2012). "Fight over climate change in coalmining continues". The Press. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- Business Desk (27 August 2012). "Bathurst Resources wins climate change appeal". The National Business Review. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- Hartley, Simon (13 September 2012). "More delays for Bathurst Resources". The Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Berry, Michael (29 November 2012). "Coal challenge goes to Supreme Court". The Press. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- "Bathurst Resources green mining case study". Straterra. 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
Bathurst Resources seeks to achieve a net positive benefit for the environment
- Hill, Samuel (22 March 2012). "Prime Minister mines boos, jeers on street". NewsWire.co.nz. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- 3 News (25 September 2012). "Drop coal mine fight, Joyce urges greenies". TV3. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
- Escarpment Mine Project at the West Coast Regional Council
- Buller Coal Project at Bathhurst Resources
- Campaign page at Forest and Bird
- Bathurst Resources Ltd page at Sourcewatch
- Escarpment Mine page at Sourcewatch