Pike River mine

Pike River mine

The Pike River mine, operated by Pike River Coal Ltd, is a new coal mine located 46 km east of Greymouth in the West Coast Region of New Zealand. It is to start production in early 2008, and expected to produce around 1 megatonne of coal per year for around 20 years,"Digging deep around New Zealand" - "LG - New Zealand Local Government", Volume 44 No 5, May 2008, Page 18] making the mine the second-largest coal export mine in the country, as well as the largest underground coal mine of the country. The coal of the mine is described as "New Zealand's largest known deposit of high fluidity and quality hard coking coal" (a type of in high demand for iron smelting)," [http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press298.htm Coal Mine Approved for New Zealand National Park] " - 'Mines & Communities' website. Environmental News Service (ENS), Tuesday 16 March 2004.Retrieved 2007-09-23.)] and is expected to earn around NZ$170 million in export income annually."How the West was won: Pike River on track" - "New Zealand Construction News", Volume 2, Issues 3, July 2007] Some setbacks during late 2007 and early 2008 did occur, delaying the start of the actual production, however the mine operators are confident that production will start in 2008, and have reached within 400 m of the coal seam." [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/3/story.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10494312&ref=rss Rich rivers of black gold in the pipeline] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Monday 25 February 2008]

Project history

The mine has a development and consenting history going back to the 1970s, with the first geologists and surveyors having explored the area in the 1940s. Located in a region that already has a long history of mining activity (for coal and gold), the mine, located 46 km north-east of Greymouth, is located on Crown land administered by the Department of Conservation, and adjacent to the Paparoa National Park, thus requiring special consideration for the environment, such as a need minimize tree felling and a requirement to reinstate all aboveground areas after mining ceases. Opponents of the mine have strongly criticised the permit, noting that the coal is not intended for domestic use but simply a commercial operation, and thus should not have been allowed to go forward in a sensitive location. Forest & Bird also criticised the fact that the Minister of Conservation chose to ignore the report from the Department of Conservation stating that the mine would be damaging to the local environment. [" [http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/publications/consnews/2003feb.pdf Undermining Paparoa National Park] " - "Conservation News", Forest & Bird, No 129, February 2003] Greenpeace has also criticised the project for furthering the use of fossil fuels instead of developing sustainable alternatives.

Mine operation


The coal will be mined 200 m underground, at 800 m above sea level, quarrying coal from the Brunner coal seam, near the Hawaea Faultline. The coal will be taken from the mine via a 2.3 km long tunnel, which is to be inclined at 5 degrees (which has so far taken 3 tonnes of dynamite to create in the rock described as being up to four times harder than concrete). Since the coal face will be located higher than the tunnel entrance, removal of material to a processing plant 10.6 km away will be effected by a slurry pipeline (with a 35% solids share).

Another major feature of the underground works will be a 110 m deep ventilation shaft, which after local ground conditions were found to be worse than expected, will be excavated with a raise-bore system excavating the 4.25 m ventilation shaft from a 0.35 m pilot drill shaft. [" [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/3/story.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10501618 Pike River changes drilling plan] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Wednesday 02 April 2008] Access to the top of the ventilation shaft is by helicopter only, even during construction, as conservation restrictions did not allow roads to be built to reach this point.

The mine will also include underground excavation for the coal slurry handling facility and mine water storage and pumping equipment, with several large galleries of up to 5.5 m width and 11 m height to be excavated.


Originally, once at the processing plant, coal was to be trucked to Greymouth for reshipment. On 27 November 2007, it was announced that the coal from the mine would be transported to Lyttelton for export instead of shipped to the Port of Taranaki. The company has reserved under contract with Toll Rail 1.3 million tonnes of capacity for their coal on the Midland line between Greymouth and Christchurch, which since upgrading by ONTRACK has a total capacity of 4 million tonnes per annum.cite web|url=http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU0711/S00568.htm|publisher=Scoop.co.nz|title=Pike River Coal Announces New Coal Transport Route|date=28 November 2007|accessdate=2007-11-29]

The mine will have about 150 full-time staff, though there are problems filling all positions, partly because of high demand for the same occupations on the Australian and international job markets.

Holding company

The company operating the mine, Pike River Coal Ltd, is listed on the NZX and ASX stock exchanges and raised NZ$ 85 million additional capital for expanding the mine in 2007. [" [http://www.crownminerals.govt.nz/cms/news/2007/pike-river-coal-project-makes-rapid-strides Pike River Coal project makes rapid strides] " - Ministry of Economic Development of New Zealand, Tuesday 31 July 2007] As of August 2007, over NZ$ 100 million had already been invested into developing the mine. [" [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=152&objectid=10460527 Pike River mine investment tops $100m] " - "The New Zealand Herald", Wednesday 29 August 2007]

The whole development itself is valued at NZ$ 2.3 billion and was initially held by New Zealand Oil & Gas (54% share) as well as the two Indian companies Gujarat NRE Coke Limited (17% share)and Saurashtra Fuels Private Limited (15% share), with the two latter companies intending to buy about half the running production of the mine's coal. After the IPO, the percentages changed to NZ Oil and Gas 31%, Gujarat 10%, Saurashtra 8.5% and minority shareholders 7.9%, with the remaining 42.5% sold via the stock offering.


External links

* [http://www.pike.co.nz/ Pike River Coal Limited] (official company website)
* [http://www.nzog.net/pikeriver/pikeSchematic.jpg/view Mine operation schematic] (from the New Zealand Oil & Gas website. Retrieved 2007-09-23.)

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