Workers at the Stockton opencast mine in the Buller coalfield will keep their jobs when the mine transferred to its new owners.
The Otago Daily Times reported, using a Westport News report, that BT Mining, the new joint venture between Bathurst Resources Ltd (ASX: BRL) and Talley's Fisheries, is set to take over on July 31 – waiting now only on approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).
Last week NZResources.com reported that Bathurst announced it had received clearance from permitting agency NZ Petroleum and Minerals for the transfer of Solid Energy's mining licences for Stockton and the Waikato mines on the North Island.
Bathurst chief executive Richard Tacon confirmed to the Westport News that BT Mining would employ Solid Energy workers on individual contracts on the same terms and conditions as now.
Solid Energy would pay redundancy to workers on the collective contract, then BT Mining would offer them individual contracts, Tacon reportedly said.
Would BT Mining increase jobs or production at Stockton? Tacon said: "Our plan is to operate the business so that we can be profitable at low coal price. An increase in output will be evaluated as we learn more about the business.”
BT Mining did not want to be ramping up and down as the international coking coal price changed, he said.
The coking coal price on Wednesday was $US147/tonne. Over the last year it varied from $US91.50/t to $US310/t.
Last year Bathurst put its Escarpment mine development in the Buller field on care and maintenance and shut its smaller Cascade mine after its lead customer, concrete maker Holcim, was leaving Westsport.
Would Escarpment re-open? Tacon told Westport News the company was continuing planning work around its Denniston Plateau assets. With the purchase of the Sullivan coal mining licence to come, Bathurst was looking at the overall resource again.
An OIO spokeswoman told the newspaper the application was still being assessed and the office was unable to say when a decision would be made.
Solid Energy currently employs 222 workers at Stockton, of whom 176 are permanent full-time. The mine employed more than four times as many five years ago when there was a coal boom.
Solid Energy chief executive Tony King confirmed Solid Energy had begun consultation with staff employed at Stockton and at Rotowaro and Maramarua in the Waikato, in preparation for transferring the assets to BT Mining.
Solid Energy’s sale of the Reefton mine to Moore Mining was progressing. Spring Creek was the only mine in Solid Energy's asset sales portfolio that had not sold. Closure of that mine was underway.
E Tu union organiser Garth Elliott said BT Mining wanted to increase production at Stockton from the current 1 million tonnes per annum to about 1.5 Mtpa.
Buller Mayor Garry Howard told Westport News the district finally had some certainty over Stockton. The Stockton deal would also give certainty to industries looking at investing in Buller.
Sources: odt.co.nz, westportnews.co.nz & nzresources.com data