Claims by Bathurst Resources Ltd, CEO Hamish Bohannan on The Nation this morning that, after open cast mining on the Denniston Plateau, the company can "put things back pretty well as they were before" and "can make improvements" are completely at odds with any basic understanding of ecology and with a ministerial briefing paper on the proposed mine, Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today.
"Open cast mining will destroy the very values which make the Denniston Plateau unique and which led to its protection as conservation land," said Ms Sage.
"The Denniston Plateau is New Zealand's only remaining example of intact ecosystems associated with coal measure plateau. It is the only such area protected as conservation land. It supports a unique association of native plants adapted to its infertile, acidic, and poorly drained soils and harsh growing conditions."
A Department of Conservation briefing paper to the Minister, released under the Official Information Act, is more realistic about the mine's likely impacts. It states:
• "The proposed open cast mine and consequent over burden dumps would permanently alter the landscape through the removal of a natural ridgeline; leaving post rehabilitation in the vicinity of 75% of the altered landscape unrevegetated."
• "The profound change in substrate and hydrology would alter the vegetation associations post-mining and reduce the current ecological integrity of the elevated Denniston Plateau."
• "The applicant makes much of the fact that they would be removing existing sources of acid mine drainage (Wharetea Plateau and Birchalls Co-operative mines); however, 156 hectares of exposed potentially acid forming rock would likely create a far more significant acid mine drainage problem."
The paper also notes:
• "The entire Denniston Plateau lies within the "West Coast Kawatiri Place" and is identified as a "Priority Site for Biodiversity Management. It is also described as a nationally outstanding landscape…"
"Open cast coal mining has no place on conservation land. As Forest and Bird's February BioBlitz showed new species are still being discovered on the Denniston Plateau," said Ms Sage.
"The only other elevated Brunner coal measure plateau, Stockton Plateau, has been mined extensively for opencast coal.
"The Minister of Conservation must say "no" to Bathurst's blandishments and continue to protect the nationally important biodiversity and landscape values of the Denniston Plateau," Ms Sage said.