Tony Kokshoorn, the mayor of the Grey District on the west coast of New Zealand?s South Island, has called for an open cut mine to be established in the wake of the gas blast that killed 29 miners, including two Australians.
The underground coal mine has been closed since the tragedy and Pike River Coal has gone into receivership.
However, the mayor remains adamant that the mine still has a future. He told Radio New Zealand an open cut mine would provide welcome employment and economic opportunities to the local and New Zealand economies. Open cut mining at the site – on conservation land in the Paparoa Ranges – would involve removing 150m of rock to reach the coal seam, estimated to be worth $6 billion.
?If we want to remain a wealthier country we need to get that coal,? Tony Kokshoorn argued. He added that the council could hand over land to be placed in conservation estate so that it could be dug up, which he said would provide a net gain for the conservation estate.
?It could be a win-win,? he said.
New Zealand?s Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee has not ruled out the idea, but said he would await Royal Commission findings into the disaster.
Tony Kokshorn?s plea comes at a time when the future of underground mining is being debated in New Zealand. Currently, four underground coal mines in New Zealand, which employ 450 staff, export quality coking and thermal coal to China, India and South East Asia.
Sources: New Zealand Herald, Australian Mining