Bathurst Resources has become the country’s pre-eminent coal producer. By PETER OWENS.
Bathurst fought long, hard and expensively to commission its Escarpment coal project on the West Coast only to be hit by the coal price crash when it finally won the right to proceed. The company received plaudits when it then bit the bullet and postponed full operations at the Escarpment Mine and placed the operation in maintenance mode.
After a marked improvement in prices for metallurgical coal and increased interest in the global steelmaking business, the company is looking at resuming operations at the Escarpment Mine, which took shareholders by surpise at the company’s annual general meeting in Wellington on December 3, 2016.
Shareholders were told the company was “cautiously optimistic” about the future for metallurgical coal and the worldwide steel business.
While there has been considerable turmoil in our coal industry in recent years, Bathurst is now the pre-eminent coal producer, particularly after the recent acquisition of key Solid Energy coal mines – the Stockton coking coal mine in the Buller coalfield, Maramarua and Rotowaro in the North Island.
On domestic supply operations, Bathurst recently enlarged its profitable operations at the Takitimu mine at Nightcaps. This long-established operation has extended north from its existing operations into the Black Diamond Block in FY2017. The production target for FY2017 was about 230,000 tonnes. At West Canterbury, Bathurst is producing thermal coal for regional industry and is working to schedule to produce 100,000 tonnes in 2017, and increasing output to 150,000t in 2018.
While the Escarpment and the developed Cascade mines are currently on care and maintenance, plans are afoot to blend their future operations with the Stockton mine. This mine is the largest opencast and major export coking coal operation in the country and would accelerate Bathurst’s entry into the export market, using already established customer relationships and infrastructure.
Bathurst sees Stockton’s infrastructure as leveraging the development of Escarpment and future development of the nearby Whareatea West deposit. The purchase of Stockton was a wise decision by Bathurst. Not only is it strategically located but it is based on known reserves and has a life-of-mine expectancy of 11 years.
Phoenix Coal, which bought up Solid Energy assets, is 65 percent owned by Bathurst (and 35 percent by the Talleys Group). Of these assets, Rotowaro west of Huntly produces high-quality, low-ash thermal coal for the domestic market, with New Zealand Steel a prime customer.
At the AGM in Wellington, Bathurst chairman, Toko Kapea, took satisfaction in reminding shareholders that in August 2016 the company reported a surplus of $1 million for the fiscal year – the first recorded surplus since the company was incorporated.
He also pointed out this surplus, as modest as it was, was in comparion to the net loss of $16 million in 2015.
In a fit of environmental anxiety Wilderness magazine, in its 2013 December issue, “urged” its tramping readers to report “potential breaches” of Bathurst Resources mining consent on Denniston.