Bathurst Resources

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This article is part of the collection of articles on coal projects in New Zealand, which has been developed in conjunction with Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA). See CANA's Twitter feed and Facebook page. For information on how to get involved in adding material to CoalSwarm see here.

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Bathurst Resources Limited (Bathurst) owns two opencast, operating coalmines in New Zealand: Takitimu in Southland, and Canterbury Coal near Coalgate in Canterbury, both mining sub-bituminous thermal coal. The company also has two non-operational opencast, bituminous coalmines: Cascade and Escarpment on the Buller Plateau. In addition it owns a coal-processing centre at Rolleston near Christchurch, and holds a number of exploration and prospecting permits in the South Island.

Bathurst describes itself as being, “focused on becoming New Zealand’s pre-eminent coal producer, delivering high quality coal into export markets and producing affordable energy for the domestic industrial markets.”[1] It was originally an Australian company, which became registered in New Zealand in Nov 2010[2] and redomiciled there in 2013.

Bathurst’s plans to mine the Denniston Plateau, north of Westport on the West Coast of the South Island, have led to a long-running battle with environmentalists. While awaiting the outcome of the legal challenges, Bathurst continued to expand the scope of its mining interests in New Zealand. A long series of court hearings regarding Escarpment, the first new mine proposed for Bathurst’s massive Buller project, came to an end in Nov 2013, and Bathurst announced that the Escarpment mine was expected to be in production by the first quarter of 2014.[3]

Towards the end of Feb 2014, however, against a background of deteriorating coking coal prices, the company decided to implement cost-cutting measures that would include Board member pay cuts and staff job losses. The establishment of Escarpment would continue, but the ramping up of coal production would be delayed until prices improved.[4]

By mid 2015, despite ongoing retrenchments, Bathurst was still operating at a loss. No dividend had ever been paid to shareholders, the company had withdrawn its listing from the New Zealand stock exchange and the share price had slipped below NZ$0.02. In March 2015 came the shock announcement of the resignation of Managing Director, Hamish Bohannan, who had been the public face of the company since 2008.

Thanks to improved productivity from the Takitimu and Canterbury mines, the company’s economic position did begin to show some improvement. In November 2015, however, Bathurst decided that it would be uneconomic to recover the remaining coal from Cascade.[5] In March 2016 the company decided to also put Escarpment into care and maintenance with the loss of a further 20 jobs.[6]

The second half of 2016 saw a dramatic change in the company’s situation. Soaring coking coal prices led to cautious optimism about the reopening of Escarpment,[7] then in October it was announced that Bathurst had joined forces with food company Talleys and lodged a successful bid for a number of the assets of failed State coal miner, Solid Energy.[8] However, by the end of 2016, coking coal prices were falling again.

Acquisition of New Zealand assets

Bathurst Resources was incorporated in May 2007, floated on the Australian Stock Exchange in January 2008 and listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in 2010.[9] After short-lived and unproductive investments in the US and Australia, Bathurst focused all its attention on New Zealand.

L&M Coal Limited

Bathurst first focused on the New Zealand Buller coalfield assets of L&M Coal Limited. An initial joint venture was followed by 100 per cent acquisition of L&M Coal Ltd in Nov 2010. The company was renamed Buller Coal Holdings Limited, and then Buller Coal Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bathurst.[10] Payments would be made in stages based on set project milestones, most of which haven’t yet been met. L&M would be entitled to performance payments totaling US$80M once 1.025 million tonnes (Mt) of coal had been shipped, and to a 1.75% royalty on gross coal revenue over the life of the proposed Escarpment mine on the Denniston plateau.[11]

In Dec 2016 L&M announced that it would file legal proceedings to recover US$40 million (NZ53.7m) of the performance payment as Bathurst had reached the trigger of 25,000 tonnes of coal product. Bathurst stated that it would fight any legal action, claiming that because it had made the relevant royalty payments, its failure to make the due performance payment was not a breach of the agreement with L&M.[12]

Eastern Resources Group

In March 2011 Bathurst paid AU$ 35m to acquire Eastern Resources Group, a subsidiary of Brisbane-based Galilee Energy, in order to gain control of two operating South Island opencast coal mines. These were the Takitimu mine (sub-bituminous coal) near Nightcaps in Southland, and the Cascade mine (hard coking coal) on the Buller plateau near the West Coast town of Westport. The purchase of Eastern Resources Group also included the prospective Whareatea West project, adjacent to the Escarpment block.[13] and a portfolio of exploration areas. The assets acquired from Eastern Resources Group were then held by Bathurst subsidiaries Cascade Coal Ltd, Takitimu Coal Ltd, Rochfort Coal Ltd and Eastern Coal Supplies.[14]

Coalbrookdale

In 2011 Bathurst acquired the mining rights to Coalbrookdale (adjacent to the Escarpment block) from Westport businessman Robert Griffiths.[15]

Canterbury Coal

In 2013 Bathurst purchased Canterbury Coal (Malvern Hills) an opencast thermal coal mine near Coalgate west of Christchurch. Bathurst. The company also acquired 50 per cent ownership of the Kenroll Coal Yard in Rolleston near Christchurch.[16]

West Coast Exploration permits

Additional permits were obtained from FMG Pacific Limited in Feb 2014.[17]

Solid Energy assets

in Nov 2016 it was announced that Bathurst had joined forces with food company Talleys and lodged a successful bid for a number of the assets of failed State coal miner, Solid Energy. The new joint venture company, BT Mining Limited (originally Phoenix Coal Limited), agreed to pay $46 million to buy Stockton mine on the West Coast of the South Island, plus Rotowaro and Maramarua mines in the North Island. BT Mining (aka Phoenix Coal) has also agreed to a semi-annual payment based on revenue from coal sold from the Stockton Mine, but this will only apply if coal prices rise above $150 a tonne. This structure will be in place for four years and the maximum that will be paid out over that period is $50 million.[18]

Included in the purchase price were Buller Plateau operating assets of the Stockton mine including Cypress, Upper Waimangaroa, Mt William North and the Ngakawau loadout. In the North Island, as well as the operating assets of the Rotowaro and Maramarua mines, certain assets at the Huntly West mine were also included.[19]

The sale is conditional on gaining approval from the Overseas Investment Office, which Bathurst expected to happen during the second quarter of 2017.[20]

The Bathurst Group

Bathurst Resources Although Bathurst opened its Wellington Office in March 2012, it remained an Australian-based company (CAN no 125679469) until June 2013 when it redomiciled in New Zealand. Current Bathurst shareholders were offered one share in Bathurst NZ for each existing share that they held in Bathurst Resources. Bathurst New Zealand would become the new ultimate parent company of the group and the company intended to raise funds and equity in New Zealand as part of its development plans.[21]

On 3 July 2015 Bathurst delisted from the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) as a cost cutting measure. The company is still listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).[22]

Bathurst Resources Limited Company structure in 2014
NB The company names and structure change constantly.
Bathurst Resources Limited

  • Bathurst New Zealand Limited
  • Bathurst Industrial Coal Limited
  • Buller Coal Limited/Buller Coal Holdings Limited
  • Bathurst Coal Holdings Limited
    • Bathurst Coal Limited
      • Eastern Coal Limited
  • Canterbury Coal (2013) Limited
  • Cascade Coal Limited
  • Cascade East Limited
  • Eastern Coal Supplies Limited
  • Rochfort Coal Limited
  • Somervilles Land Holdings Limited
  • Takitimu Coal Limited

On 01 Aug 2014 all the companies owned by Bathurst Coal Ltd (previously Eastern Coal Limited) were removed from the Companies Register and amalgamated to become Eastern Coal Limited (No 1851760).[23]

  • Bathurst Industrial Coal (owned jointly with JBT Management)
  • BR Coal Pty Ltd (Australian ASIC company)
  • New Brighton Collieries Limited (Status unclear – see below)

The companies - past and present[24]

Bathurst Resources Limited
No 4382538 Inc 27 March 2013
Previous name(s): Bathurst Resources (New Zealand) Limited (18 Dec 2013)
Owners: Extensive shareholding (see 7.1 Shareholders)
Directors: See 8.2 Board of Bathurst Resources

Bathurst New Zealand Limited
No 3182507 Inc 04 Nov 2010
Owner: Bathurst Resources Limited
Directors: Richard Tacon (sole director)

Bathurst Coal Limited
No 1851760 Inc 22 Aug 2006
Previous name(s):
Eastern Coal Ltd (02 Aug 2014)
Eastern Resources Group Ltd (20 Oct 2011)
Owner(s): Bathurst Coal Holdings Ltd
Directors: Richard Tacon (sole director)

Bathurst Coal Holdings Limited
No 3190567 Inc 09 Nov 2010
Previous name: Bathurst Coal Ltd
Owner(s) Bathurst Resources Ltd
Directors: Richard Tacon (sole director)
Owns Bathurst Coal Ltd

Bathurst Industrial Coal Ltd
4602140 Inc 29 Aug 2013
Owner(s): J B T Management Ltd (50%) and Bathurst Resources Ltd (50%)
Directors: Directors: Mark McIntyre, Richard Niederer and Richard Tacon
Operates a coal yard in Rolleston near Christchurch.

BR Coal Pty Ltd
No 3197550 Inc 18 Nov 2010
Previous name: Bathurst Resources Pty Ltd (until Dec 2013)
Owners(s): Overseas ASIC company. No shareholding given
Directors: Pier Westerhuis (sole director)

Buller Coal Ltd
No 1534436 Inc 06 Aug 2004
Previous names:

  • Buller Coal Holdings Ltd (28 Feb 2011)
  • L&M Coal Ltd (09 Nov 2010)

Owner: Bathurst New Zealand Ltd
Directors: Richard Tacon (sole director)
Overview: Buller Coal Ltd is responsible for the Buller Project, which operates on the Buller coal field, and includes more than 10,000 ha of exploration and mining permits, and the non-operating Escarpment and Cascade mines on the edge of the Denniston Plateau.[25][26]

BT Mining Limited No 6110867 Incorporated 21 Sep 2016
Previous name: Phoenix Coal Limited (19 Sep 2016 – 22 Dec 2016)
No ultimate holding company
Directors: Jason HUNGERFORD Wellington NZ
Richard John TACON Wellington NZ
Andrew Ivan TALIJANCICH Mapua NZ
Milan Daniel TALIJANCICH Upper Moutere NZ
Owners: Bathurst Resources Limited 65%
Talleys Energy Limited 35% (Owned by the Talleys Group Ltd)
The company was formed in order to acquire certain Solid Energy assets.[27]

Eastern Coal Limited
1851760
This company was formerly listed as the owner of Canterbury Coal (2013), Cascade Coal, Eastern Coal Supplies, Takitimu Coal and Rochfort Coal, and was then reformed by the amalgamation of those companies. It is currently (June 2016) known as Bathurst Coal Limited.

Canterbury Coal (2013) Ltd
No 1827315 Inc 30 Jun 2006
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous Name(s): Cascade West Ltd (09 Jan 2013)
Former owner: Bathurst Coal Ltd
Overview: Bathurst purchased the opencast Malvern Hills coal mine from Canterbury Coal in Aug 2013. Bathurst referred to the mine, which produces thermal coal for food industries, as the Canterbury Coal mine.[28] and expected it to double production to 75,000 tpa by 2017.[29] Production was 32,399 tonnes In the year ending 30 June 2014.

Eight staff are employed when the mine is fully operational, but full operations were suspended in the June quarter 2014 to allow for processing upgrades.[30] They were expected to resume by the end of the year but the half year report to Dec 2014 stated that this wouldn’t occur until March 2015.[31]

Cascade Coal
No 1626594 Inc 16 May 2005
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous name: Cascade Coal Pty Ltd (04 Sep 2006)
Former owner: Bathurst Coal Ltd
Overview: Cascade Coal operated the opencast Cascade Mine, which at the beginning of 2014 was the only operating mine in the Buller project.

The 2014 Annual Report stated that 27 workers were employed at Cascade and six in the Westport office.[32]

Bathurst’s half year report to Dec 2014 stated that mining costs would decrease because of a decrease in the amount of overburden to remove. Rehabilitation was ongoing in mined out areas.[33]

Cascade East Limited
No 1846346 Inc 18 Aug 2006
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous name: Cascade East Pty Limited
Owner: Bathurst Coal Limited

Eastern Coal Supplies Limited
No 1851770 Inc 30 Aug 2006
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous name: Somervilles Coal Pty Ltd 904 Sep 2006)
Overview: Eastern Coal Supplies, located at Timaru on the east coast of the South Island, operated as a blending and distribution centre for coal from Bathurst’s West Coast and Southland mines.[34]

Rochfort Coal Ltd
No 1569051 Inc 21 Oct 2004
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous name: Rochfort Coal mining Pty Ltd (20 Apr 2007)
Owner: Bathurst Coal Ltd
Overview: Rochfort Coal held prospecting and/or exploration permits in Southland, Canterbury, West Coast (Whareatea West) and Otago. Exploration permits included ones for the Home Hills area in Central Otago, and for Albury in the McKenzie District of South Canterbury. [35]

Bathurst does not plan to proceed with development work at Albury at present. [36]

Somervilles Land Holdings
No 1851845 Inc 30 Aug 2006
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous names: Somervilles Land Holdings Pty Ltd
Owner: Bathurst Coal Ltd
Overview: The company originally had a South Island owner, but by May 2013 was fully owned and operated by Bathurst (Eastern Coal).[37]

Takitimu Coal Ltd
No 1827316 Inc 30 Jun 2006
Removed: 01 Aug 2014
Previous names:

  • Takitimu Coal Limited (20 Apr 2007)
  • Takitimu Coal Pty Limited (04 Sep 2006)
  • Enviro Coal Pty Limited (11 Aug 2006)
  • Cascade East Pty Limited (24 Jul 2006)

Owner: Bathurst Coal Ltd
Overview: Takitimu Coal operated Takitimu opencast mine in Southland.

New Brighton Collieries (NBC)
No 2239106 Inc 08 May 2009
Owner: L&M Coal Holdings Ltd
Director: Archibald Geoffrey Loudon
Overview: NBC has as its principal asset an exploration permit (40625) covering 685 ha of land 5 km from Bathurst’s Takitimu mine. Bathurst stated in Feb 2013 that it was acquiring this asset but as of Oct 2014 the permit (No 40625) still belonged to NBC and the agreement was described as ‘conditional’.[38][39][40]

Bathurst finally completed the acquisition in March 2015. Payment terms had been amended so that instead of paying the NZ$13.25 million balance of the purchase price by 31 Dec 2015, the balance would be satisfied by an ongoing deferred consideration being 5% of gross sales revenue at mine gate on all coal produced by the company in the Ohai area.[41]

Bathurst Permits

Bathurst’s wholly-owned subsidiaries hold – or have held – these permits (for coal-mining unless stated otherwise):[42]

Permit types
PP Prospecting permit
EP Exploration permit
MP Mining permit


Number Location Operation name Owner Status
PP52713 West Coast Buller Coal Buller Coal Surrendered
PP54896 West Coast Buller Metals Buller Coal Active
EP53756 West Coast Mokihinui Buller Coal Surrendered
EP40591 West Coast Whareatea Bathurst Coal Subsequent permit pending
EP40628 West Coast West Coast Buller Coal Extension pending
EP51078 West Coast Coal Creek Buller Coal Expired
EP54031 West Coast 10 Mile Creek Buller Coal Surrendered
EP54505 West Coast Denniston West Buller Coal Surrendered
EP55199 Waikato Mangapehi Buller Coal Surrendered
EP54507 West Coast Rocklands Buller Coal Surrendered
MP41274 West Coast Cascade Creek Buller Coal Active
MP41332 West Coast Cascade Creek Buller Coal Extension pending
MP41455 West Coast Cascade Creek Bathurst Coal Active
MP41456 West Coast Cascade Creek Buller Coal Active
MP51279 West Coast Escarpment Buller Coal Active
EP51260 Southland Ohai Bathurst Coal Active
MP53614 Southland Coaldale Bathurst Coal Active
EP54933 Otago Home Hills Bathurst Coal Surrendered
PP52484 Canterbury Albury Bathurst Coal Expired
EP54846 Canterbury Albury Bathurst Coal Active
MP41372 Canterbury Malvern Hills Bathurst Coal Extension pending
EP54512 Tasman Flat Creek Buller Coal Surrendered
EP54389 Waikato Tihiroa Buller Coal Surrendered
EP54590 West Coast Inangahua Buller Coal Surrendered
PP54935 Canterbury Waitaki Bathurst Coal Active
EP51212 West Coast Moody Creek Buller Coal Active
EP51258 West Coast - Buller Coal Surrendered
EP52147 West Coast - Buller Coal Surrendered
EP52713 West Coast (Gold exploration) Buller Coal Surrendered
EP53047 West Coast Charleston Buller Coal Surrendered
EP54658 West Coast North Reefton Buller Coal Active
MP51279 West Coast Escarpment Buller Coal Active
MP55401 West Coast Rapid Stream Buller Coal Active (not coal)
MP56233.01 West Coast Coal Creek Buller Coal Active
PP56927.01 Southland Bathurst Coal Application under evaluation
EP57205 - Caroline Terrace Bathurst Coal Active
EP40776 - North Waikato Buller Coal Surrendered
MP60138.01 - Whareatea West Bathurst Coal Under evaluation
PP56927 - Ohai Metals Bathurst Coal Active

In its 2016 Annual Report Bathurst announced that, following a critical review, a number of permits were surrendered because they were outside the core Buller coking coal areas, and required long lead times and significant expenses.[43]

Coal Resources

[44]

Coal Resources 2016
Location Mine Resource (Mt)
South Buller Cascade 1.5 Mt
South Buller Coalbrookdale 9.2 Mt
South Buller Deep Creek 10.9 Mt
South Buller Escarpment 6.2 Mt
South Buller Whareatea West 23.3 Mt
North Buller Blackburn 19.9 Mt
North Buller Millerton North 5.5 Mt
North Buller North Buller 20.6 Mt
Canterbury Canterbury Coal 5.3
Southland Takitimu 3.7[45]
Southland New Brighton 4.2

Maps in Bathurst Resources Company Update Sep 2014 show the location of these resources.

Coal Production
Mine Production (t) Year 2012[46] Production (t) Year 2013[47] Production (t) Year 2014[48] Production (t) Year 2015[49] Production (t) Year 2016[50]
Cascade 59,285 58,832 72,650 77,768 17,299
Escarpment - - - 11,851 48,365
Takitimu 148,071 184,589 215,720 302,871 303,540
Canterbury Coal - - 32,399 2,656 61,676
Total 207,356 243,421 320,769 393,941 430,880

Mining operations

Bathurst has always made it clear that its domestic business would be driven as, “a robust platform from which it can develop its export projects.”[51] The company’s 2014 Annual Report stated that, “Instead of scaling up for the development of Escarpment, the company has concentrated on its domestic business to ensure there is a steady revenue stream to support activities until coking coal prices recover to a point where export operations again become viable . . . Further long-term contracts have been signed for supply of energy to the food and dairy processing industries in the South Island, increasing our domestic market to around 400,000 tonnes per annum.”[52]

The 2015 Annual Report stated that Bathurst had gained 46% of the South Island market share (391,450 t). Dairy uses 71% of the coal sold in the South Island, and Bathurst had 36% of this market. Current targets (60ktpa) were dairy, food processing, energy centre and lime works, with the major long term growth (100kt–160ktpa) seen as being in the dairy area. Bathurst saw its potential markets in the North Island as being replacement of imports for cement and steel-making (350ktpa) and other industrial markets (approx 240 ktpa). [53]

For the 12 months ending 30 June 2016 Bathurst achieved record coal production of more than 430,000 tonnes – an increase of 10% on the previous year. From the beginning of 2016 it reported as a Producer rather than an Explorer to the Australian Securities Exchange.[54]

Takitimu

Takitimu is described as “producing sub-bituminous (thermal) coal, to supply cost effective energy to the agri-sector in the South Island where other options for power and energy infrastructure are either not available or not commercially viable.”[55] Customers include local dairy and food processing plants, schools and hospitals. The mine’s largest contract is with Fonterra’s huge Clandeboye plant near Timaru. The current 10 year 130,000 tonne a year contract began in September 2008.[56]

The mine continued to produce coal for longer than expected (184,359 tonnes in 2012–2013)[57] and, as it became exhausted, was extended into newly purchased land on the nearby Coaldale block. Coal production in the year ending 30 June 2014 was 215,720 tonnes.[58]

Bathurst’s half year report to Dec 2014 stated that the company had taken over the mining contract from the contractor and all the site staff had transferred to Bathurst, resulting in a lower cost of production.[59]

The Directors’ report for the six months ending 31 Dec 2015 stated that initial activities were focused on stripping overburden to expedite coal recovery once the dairy industry returned to full production after the winter shutdown. Mining activities were focused in the Coaldale block. Bathurst had entered into a conditional agreement to acquire the Black Diamond area, prospective for high quality thermal coal, adjacent to this block.[60] During the quarter to Dec 2015 an application was lodged with the Overseas Investment Office to approve this purchase.[61] The application was approved in June 2016, enabling Bathurst to purchase 85 ha of forestry land from Southern Plantation Forest, owned by Japanese interests. The price of the purchase was withheld, although in April Bathurst had raised AUD4.25 million to finance, among other things, costs for due diligence on "an impending NZ coal opportunity".[62] It is planned that Black Diamond will become the main mining area after the Takitimu and Coaldale pits are fully depleted. Mine planning is targeting first coal recovery from Black Diamond in the final quarter of 2017.[63]

During the first three months of 2016 drilling continued in the Coaldale and Black Diamond blocks to improve mine planning and scheduling from the geologic model. Mining continued to progress to the North of the Coaldale pit, [64] however in June 2016 eight of the 51 staff were scheduled to be laid off, although some might be employed at the Canterbury mine which was expanding production. Domestic operations general manager Craig Pilcher indicated that the Takitimu mine was hoping to pick up a major customer in the following season.[65]

Canterbury

Canterbury mine is an opencast mine near Coalgate, about 70 km west of Christchurch. When Bathurst purchased the mine in 2013, production of its thermal coal was expected to double to 75,000 tpa by 2017.[66] Production was 32,399 tonnes In the year ending 30 June 2014.

Full operations were suspended in the June quarter 2014 to allow for processing upgrades at Rolleston.[22] Mining was expected to resume by the end of the year but this didn’t occur until March 2015.[23] In the March quarter 2016, 20,006 tonnes were mined. In its 2016 March quarterly report Bathurst stated that Canterbury was approaching full production levels within the existing mine plans and was on track to produce 60,000 tonnes per annum. The company has a contract to supply Canterbury coal to a nearby dairy processing plant.[67]

Coal demand in the Canterbury area is increasing with expansion in the local dairy and food processing industries. Further expansion plans for Canterbury mine include a new overburden dump to be located on adjoining land and the opening of an additional resource area – Surveyors Gully. Consenting is underway for these projects.[68]

Cascade

Cascade produced modest amounts of bituminous coal mainly for a local cement works, which was scheduled to close in 2016. It was planned that after that time, the coal would be exported. According to Bathurst, production was increasing to target 100 ktpa although production in the year ending 30 June 2014 was only 72,650 tonnes. Twenty seven workers were employed at Cascade and six at the Westport office. Elsewhere in the same report it was stated that production would in fact be scaling down and the mine would then be put into rehabilitation.[69]

In November 2015 it was considered that the remaining coal at Cascade mine would be uneconomic to recover, and it was decided to place the mine into care and maintenance. Rehabilitation was ongoing, including shaping of the final landforms in the dump areas and the establishment of approximately 9000 native plants. [70]

Escarpment

After a prolonged battle to obtain consents to open up a new opencast, bituminous coal mine on the Buller plateau near Westport on the West Coast of the South Island (see Battle for the Denniston plateau below), it appeared that Bathurst would start coal extraction in early 2014. However, plummeting coking coal prices led to the company’s decision to proceed with site clearance and construction of infrastructure, but to delay full-scale mining until prices improved.

In Bathurst’s half-year report to 31 Dec 2015 the company stated that site works were continuing in preparation for a move into full production once operating costs and export coal prices could provide an ongoing positive margin. A waste dump extension and underdrains had been established, and stripping commenced in the Red Shed block in preparation for further site infrastructure. A total of 37,120 tonnes of coal had been recovered during this process for sale into the domestic market. [71]

On 11 March 2016, however, Bathurst warned that Escarpment would be put into care and maintenance as the Holcim cement works, the mine’s main customer, was due to close. Escarpment couldn’t operate profitably at current demand levels. By 23 March 2016 it was confirmed that 20 jobs would be cut in Buller.[72]

Bathurst’s 2016 Annual Report stated that full environmental compliance was continuing at the site until mining operations could be reinstated. All plant and equipment had been transferred to other Bathurst sites, but the company planned to maintain the value of the resource and would continue to meet all consent requirements to ensure continued access to the permit.[73]

By September 2016, coking coal prices were showing a dramatic upturn after slumping to US$78 in May, and it appeared that Escarpment might go back into production sooner than had been envisaged. CE Richard Tacon said that Bathurst would need to provide a revised annual work plan to the council and the Department of Conservation, but that, “We definitely want to go and work there. We would be able to get it off the ground fairly quickly.”[74]

By the end of 2016 coking coal prices were falling again after doubling (in the Chinese domestic market), or tripling (out of Australia). In Jan 2017 market analysts were predicting that prices would continue to drop, and that the questions to answer were by how much and how quickly this would take place.[75]

Bathurst Projects

Eastern Coal

The current iteration of Eastern Coal Limited (2014) is the company formed by amalgamation with its previous subsidiaries. It is concentrated on producing thermal coal for the domestic market at its Takitimu and Canterbury mines. The company is also looking at export opportunities for its coal, using existing infrastructure at Southport near Invercargill. Eastern Coal also holds a number of prospecting, exploratory and mining licences in the South Island.

Buller Coal

The Buller Coking Coal Project is Bathurst’s flagship. In 2013 the company stated that it was targeting a 3Mtpa production profile by 2019. [76] The Buller Project has a portfolio that includes near-surface coal deposits and opencast mining access; an existing underground mine; plus extensive exploration prospects that largely surround Solid Energy’s Stockton opencast mining operation, currently [Jan 2017] in the process of being purchased by a joint venture between Bathurst and Talley’s. The scope of Bathurst’s interests – operational, subject to consent applications, and prospective – can be seen in these maps:[77][78]

The project is divided into: South Buller, comprising the Cascade and Escarpment mines, the Coalbrookdale underground mining permit, and the Whareatea West and Deep Creek exploration permits; and North Buller, which includes Millerton North, North Buller, Seddonville, Ngakawau, Blackburn and Coal Creek permits. All the permits are intended to be developed as opencast mines. [79]

Shortly after acquiring the coal exploration licences from L&M, Bathurst began an exploration drilling programme aimed at proving a resource to support a 5-7 year mine life for the 1 Mtpa Escarpment mine, and further delineating other coking coal deposits within the lease areas to enable a 20–30 year project. [80] In 2016 Bathurst applied to convert the Exploration permit for Whareatea West to a Mining Permit. [81] Coalbrookdale is fully consented for underground mining, but Bathurst hope to obtain consent for opencast mining. [82] In Sep 2013, however, Bathurst stated that development of Coalbrookdale wasn’t planned until market conditions improved. [83]

Although at this stage the major focus is on the Denniston plateau in South Buller, Escarpment (currently in care and maintenance) would be just the first of up to eight or so mines planned for the massive project. [84] North Buller has been subject to a scoping study and a mining permit has been granted for an area known as Coal Creek. In 2012 Bathurst was aiming to bring the first North Buller permits into production in late 2016, but the company’s 2016 Annual Report doesn’t give an expected start date.[85]

Bathurst has also applied for an Access Arrangement to drill in areas held by the Department of Conservation. [86] North Buller drilling continued in 2012–2013 on land held by the Ngai Tahu Forest Estates and in the Cascade mine area.

Bathurst has also undertaken a programme to upgrade infrastructure. A new coal storage shed has been completed at Westport Port as part of a $30 m project, and storage facilities have also been improved at the deep water port of Taranaki from where it is planned to export coal. [87] The purchase of Solid Energy (SE) assets will provide access to improved coal handling and processing facilities.[88]

The Battle for the Denniston Plateau

The Denniston Plateau – a special place

The Buller Project is adamantly opposed by environmental groups, not only because of the increased greenhouse gas emissions it will cause,* but also because of the damage it will do to a unique coal measure ecosystem on the Denniston Plateau, which is an area of extraordinary biodiversity with many species still not discovered or described.[89][90]

Ecologist, Sir Alan Mark, and wildlife photographer, Rod Morris, refuted the claims of Bathurst CEO, Hamish Bohannan, that the impact of mining would be temporary. They stated that, “Even the most successful attempts at restoration of native ecosystems can only be described as pathetic. The transplanting of the commonest plants such as red tussock and manuka does not restore the native plant communities and their fauna."[91] Landscape architect, Chris Glasson, has produced a Landscape Assessment for the Escarpment Mine Proposal, which makes it possible to visually assess the impact of mining activities and infrastructure on the environment.[92]

On 24 May 2013 the Department of Conservation released the information that it had provided to the Minister prior to his decision to allow Bathurst access to Denniston. The department was ‘particularly concerned’ about losses to natural and historic resources at the site, which included 106ha of elevated Buller coal measure ecosystems, 20ha of which was rare sandstone erosion pavements; rare plants; endangered wildlife, such as lizards, giant snails and great spotted kiwi; and nationally significant wetlands.[93]

* Note: Although the coal from Escarpment is intended for use in steel making, steel contains less than 2% of the carbon in the coke used in its manufacture. The rest of the carbon will be oxidized, ultimately to carbon dioxide.[94]

Escarpment – the legal history

2003 Solid Energy left vacant the rights to Exploration Permit no 40628, which now forms the basis of the Buller Coal Project. L&M Holdings, a privately based Christchurch company, applied for this permit.[95]

2005 L&M Coal was granted EP40628, which covered 18,740 ha from the Denniston sector, north past Solid Energy’s Stockton mine and back down to the east of the plateau.[96]

Oct 2008 L&M Group chairman Geoff Louden announced that L&M Coal was preparing a mining application for an escarpment block estimated to contain 5 Mt of coal. L&M Coal had also applied for additional exploration ground adjacent to the existing permit.[97]

Dec 2008 L&M Coal lodged applications for resource consents and concessions for the Escarpment Mine with the Buller District Council, West Coast Regional Council and Department of Conservation (DOC) but these were then placed on hold pending further investigation by L&M Coal of the methodology for processing and transporting coal off the Plateau.[98]

Sep 2010 Sixteen resource consent applications in the name of L&M Coal Limited were lodged with the West Coast Regional Council, and eight with the Buller District Council for the proposed Escarpment Mining Project. The Councils publicly notified the applications and invited submissions.[99]

The applications were opposed by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand (Forest & Bird), the West Coast Environment Network (WCENT), Whareatea residents and individuals. Submissions referred to issues such as the contribution of coal emissions to climate change; the degradation and loss of an intact, historically rare and nationally important ecosystem; negative effects on indigenous, threatened and endemic species; negative effects on wetlands and water bodies; and loss of public access.[100]

Nov 2010 Bathurst Resources Limited acquired L&M Coal Limited, which was eventually renamed as Buller Coal Limited.[101]

June 2011 The regional council hearing was held by an independent panel of commissioners representing both councils.[102]

Aug 2011 The commissioners released their decision to grant consents for Escarpment. The 200-page decision included, however, the view that, "From the evidence presented to us, it is abundantly clear that large scale mining is poised to invade the Denniston Plateau coal reserves which if unchecked, will totally destroy the ecosystems that are present." This conclusion was reached even in the absence of the Department of Conservation who did not attend the hearing. Bathurst would need the approval of the Department for an access arrangement for the mine pit and a concession for a coal processing plant.[103] Appeals against the consents were lodged by Forest & Bird, WCENT, and the Fairdown-Whareatea Residents’ Association Incorporated (Residents).[104]

Dec 2011 Bathurst entered into mediation with the Residents and produced a revised plan for Escarpment, which addressed their concerns by such amendments as an aerial system of coal transportation. [105] (In April 2012 the Residents withdrew their appeal and expressed their full support of the project.[106]

March 2012 Whilst appeals were still underway, Prime Minister John Key showed his support for Bathurst by opening the company's Wellington office. Two hundred people protested at the event[107] during which, according to Bathurst, the Prime Minister “reinforced his support for organizations that are providing much needed jobs while carefully managing environmental impacts.”[108] Mr Key did, however, promise that New Zealanders would get a say in the access approval by the Department of Conservation: "This is going to be a notified access agreement for the Denniston plateau so there is no hiding away from that."[109]

On 27 March, an Environmental Court hearing considered the issue of whether the court should or could consider climate change under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

April 2012 The Environment Court (30 Apr) declared that it could not have any regard to the effects on climate change of discharges into the air of greenhouse gases when considering consent applications. This decision was appealed by Forest & Bird and WCENT[110] and the appeal was heard by the High Court on 30 July.

Aug 2012 The High Court decision (24 Aug) upheld the Environment Court decision of 30 April.[111]

Sep 2012 WCENT lodged an appeal (11 Sep) in the Court of Appeal against the High Court’s decision.[112] Bathurst CEO Hamish Bohannan stated that the hurdles resource companies faced were ‘daunting’ and they needed ‘deep pockets’ to get over them, owing to the ‘never-ending loop’ of appeals.[113] It appeared, however that the National government was firmly on Bathurst’s side. Mr Bohannan told “The Nation” that Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley had reassured the mining industry that the government was “working on” making it easier for mining to go ahead.[114] On 26 Sep, in the wake of Solid Energy’s closure of the uneconomic Spring Creek Mine, Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce called for environmental organisations to drop their opposition to the Escarpment mine in order that more mining jobs could be created.[115]

Oct 2012 Forest & Bird’s appeal to the Environment Court to overturn the granting of resource consents was heard from 29 Oct–18 Dec. One of the issues raised was that a condition of Escarpment's consents was carrying out pest and predator control within a 396 ha area for a minimum of 35 years. However, some of Bathurst’s future proposed mines were actually within this biodiversity enhancement area.[116]WCENT’s experts also critiqued Bathurst’s economic case, which was based on a coal price of US$240/t – during the previous four years coal prices had been below US$165/t for almost half the time.[117]

Nov 2012 The Supreme Court granted leave for the appeal by the WCENT and Forest & Bird against the earlier High Court judgment, which disallowed climate change evidence in resource consent applications. [118]

March 2013 The Environment Court released its interim findings about Denniston, agreeing that values of the Plateau were very high, but stating that the case was, "so finely balanced that while our current inclination is to grant consent much will ultimately turn on whether appropriate conditions can be worked out."[119] The court gave the parties until 19 April to agree a timetable for a plan to allow mining in some areas and protection for others. Bathurst would need to ensure existing vegetation would be re-established and mechanisms put in place to permanently protect 745 ha of land on the plateau. [120]

April 2013 Forest & Bird lodged an appeal (11 Apr) in the High Court against the Environment Court’s decision not to take into consideration the environmental effects of the proposed Sullivan mine. (Mining company Solid Energy has licenses until 2027 to develop a 134 ha opencast mine on the Sullivan site, close to Escarpment.)

The Crown Mineral (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill passed its third reading on 16 April. The bill promoted, “prospecting for, exploration for and mining of Crown owned minerals for the benefit of New Zealand …”. It specified that decisions about access to conservation land for significant issues should be made jointly by the Ministers of Conservation, and of Energy and Resources. This would apply retrospectively, for example in the case of Bathurst’s applications.[121]

On 18 April Forest & Bird lodged an appeal in the High Court against some of the findings in the Environment Court’s interim decision. This decision had not outright upheld or rescinded Bathurst’s consents to mine the Denniston Plateau, but it did make findings with respect to: the amount of coal to be mined; the proposed mitigation offset and compensation package; and whether mining-related activities could occur in an area with particularly high values, known as Sticherus Ridge.[122]

May 2013 Minister of Conservation Dr Nick Smith announced (23 May) that he had granted an access arrangement for the Escarpment project. Dr Smith did not appear to share the view of environmentalists that Denniston was of high ecological value, when he made a point of reminding the West Coast audience at the announcement that the area was, “general stewardship land, which is the lowest legal status of protection of land managed by the Department of Conservation.”[123] (Stewardship land makes up about one-third of the land managed by the Department of Conservation, and is land which has never been systematically assessed to determine its appropriate category.)[124]

Dr Smith stated that the area did have conservation values, but the loss of these would be compensated for by, “a $22 million package by Bathurst Resources. This will fund pest and predator control over 25,000 hectares of the Heaphy River catchment in the Kahurangi National Park, 4500 hectares on and around the Denniston Plateau, as well as for historic projects on the Plateau itself.”[125]

WCENT’s spokeswoman Lynley Hargreaves said new legislation meant that Bathurst's application would have been subject to public submissions if it had been approved just a few days later. She said Dr Smith had made "a rushed decision made simply to avoid public consultation.” Forest & Bird Field Officer Debs Martin said she was stunned by the decision, “"Forest & Bird believes the decision is about politics, not conservation. The law prevents the Conservation Minister from taking economic considerations into account when considering access arrangements.”[126]

Hamish Bohannan described the access approval as a ‘huge step’. Escarpment was the most challenging of the mines that Bathurst envisaged developing in the Buller Coal Project. The company was also talking with various local community groups in the process of developing a plan for mining the rest of the Denniston Plateau, which Mr Bohannan described as being, “not too far away”.[127]

On 24 May the Department of Conservation made public its advice about whether the access application should be granted. The 246-page decision noted that Bathurst's proposal failed in key areas that Dr Smith had to consider under the Crown Minerals Act. The application was described as being inconsistent with the objectives of the Conservation Act, the purpose for which the land was held by the Crown and the conservation management strategy.[128]

On 27 May Forest & Bird and the WCENT lodged an appeal against the interim resource consent granted by the Environment Court.[129]

June 2013 The Minister of Conservation provided further support for Bathurst by announcing his intention to grant a concession for the haul road for Escarpment.[130]

In the Christchurch High Court (06 June), Justice John Fogarty turned down an appeal by Forest & Bird against the Environment Court's preliminary decision not to look at the cumulative impact of Bathurst's proposed mine and the adjoining Solid Energy Sullivan permit. The judge said that the Resource Management Act did not provide for applications that may rival each other to be heard together, even though they could generate cumulative effects. "This feature of the Act is the source of the hard answer to the otherwise very powerful proposition of Forest and Bird, that if cumulative effects are not considered now, they never will be," he said.[131]

Despite this setback, Forest & Bird was heartened by the Court’s decision to re-evaluate two points of law – the Environment Court was being asked to keep separate its consideration of mitigation and offsets, and to have regard to the possibility of future mining within Bathurst’s other mining permits on the Denniston Plateau when imposing consent conditions.[132]

On 11 June, the Environment Court resumed hearings in order to discuss proposed consent conditions and to consider the issues that had arisen from the appeal to the High Court in relation to the Environment Court’s earlier interim decision.[133]

On 28 Jun Forest & Bird applied to appeal against the Environment and High Courts’ rulings.[134]

Aug 2013 Bathurst stated that the Environment Court had requested minor amendments to a limited number of proposed consent conditions. Bathurst was required to use “best endeavours” to achieve an appropriate protection mechanism for the area.[135]

On 28 Aug the Department of Conservation announced that the majority of the submissions lodged supported its intention to grant Buller Coal a 10-year easement to improve access. (The only other occasion when public consultation had been called for regarding mining on Escarpment was in September 2010.)[136]

Sep 2013 The Supreme Court dismissed WCEN’s appeal, which had claimed that climate change effects caused by burning mined coal overseas were relevant to the consent process (19 Sep).[137] Chief Justice Sian Elias dissented from the majority discussion, stating she believed that excluding the end use of coal would undermine the sustainable management principles of the legislation.[138]

WCEN spokesperson, Lynley Hargreaves, said that NZ had designed a system, “which put the short-term economic gain of carbon-intensive industries above the well-being of future generations.” She went on to say that, “This is not the end of opposition to coal mining – we will use every other peaceful process to stand up for the future of our children.”[139]

Oct 2013 The Court of Appeal declined (17 Oct) Forest & Bird’s application for special leave to appeal the decision made by the High Court on 06 June.[140]

On 24 Oct the Environment Court of New Zealand issued its decision to grant Resource Consents for the Escarpment Project.[141] Responding to this news, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn stated that the resource consent approval for Escarpment was great news for the district and that more than 200 jobs would be created over the following two years.[142]

Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell criticised the role of the Department of Conservation in failing to protect the Denniston Plateau. The Department had accepted $22 million from Bathurst in exchange for giving the company the right to go onto conservation land and mine the plateau. In addition, the Department had decided not to appear in the Environment Court in defence of the plateau, despite the fact that DOC scientists had rated Denniston as one of the top-50 most ecologically valuable sites in mainland New Zealand.[143]

Nov 2013 Forest & Bird announced that it wouldn’t appeal the Environment Court decision that would allow Escarpment to proceed. Field officer Debs Martin said, “The decision . . . was a hard one. We consider the Denniston Plateau to be one of the most precious parts of the conservation estate.” She considered it was clear that the court had now largely accepted that the mine would proceed. Even if an appeal had been successful, it wouldn’t necessarily have prevented the mine. The second reason for making the agreement was that it would make certain that Bathurst would have to deliver on its undertaking to create and protect a reserve by avoiding opencast mining in a defined area. Ms Martin went on to state that, “Given the coal industry is going to be allowed to mine such a sensitive part of the conservation estate, we hope DOC will now do what is required of it by law and make sure the plants and animals on what will be left of the Denniston and Stockton plateaux are saved from extinction.”[144]

In an audio interview (26 Nov) CEO Hamish Bohannan said, “all the uncertainty has now gone.” He expected the mine to be in production by early 2014. Management plans would not be appealed as they weren’t, “in for approval they’re in for stamping.” Mr Bohannan did not consider that Bathurst Resources had had to forego anything to achieve agreement from Forest & Bird, and that the Denniston Protection Area would be ‘locked in’. He believed that prices for metallurgical coal were showing signs of recovery and was confident that things would improve.[145]

June 2014 Bathurst announced that it had received the Authority to Enter and Operate (AEO) for the Escarpment Mine Project from the Department of Conservation (DOC). This would enable the company to proceed with earthworks and site preparation at Escarpment in readiness to quickly move into full mining operations once global coking coal prices recovered. Initial works, scheduled to begin on 01 July 2014, would comprise site clearing, establishing initial water management dams and drainage systems, installation of coal stockpile areas, site roads and basic infrastructure. Coal recovered in the initial construction phase would be sold into the domestic industrial market or dispatched for trials in Asian markets. It was envisaged that approximately 35,000 tonnes would be recovered in the first 6 months. Bathurst had lodged a bond with the Buller District Council, West Coast Regional Council and DOC. The company would also be making its first payment as part of the $22 million compensation package to DOC as agreed under the Access Arrangement. .[146]

Escarpment - an uncertain future

By the end of 2013 it appeared that Bathurst would be starting to extract coal from Escarpment in early 2014. In Feb 2014, however, Bathurst announced that there would be an indefinite delay to the start of mining at Escarpment and that it would be implementing a cost-cutting proposal in which the company would have a smaller Board, whose members would have a reduction in remuneration of up to 30%. About 29 staff members would lose their jobs, and the planned recruitment of up to 100 staff would no longer go ahead.[147] The company’s focus would be on the existing three operating mines, which largely service the dairy and cement industries, and on establishing the Escarpment mine once the operating plans had been approved and the “Authority to Enter and Operate issued”.

These decisions were made against the background of a coking coal market that had deteriorated to its weakest position in about nine years. The international price had dropped from more than USD300 per tonne in 2012 to only USD120 per tonne, which was Bathurst’s estimate of its expected start-up operating costs at Escarpment. Although the company intended to proceed with the establishment of Escarpment, ramping up production would be deferred until the market was deemed to be recovering[148] [A ‘caucusing agreement’ reached by Forest & Bird and Bathurst economists in the Environment Court was that the project would break even at a price of USD165 per tonne.][149] According to Simon Hartley of the Otago Daily Times, the price recovery period could be 12–18 months. Craigs Investment Partners broker Peter McIntyre expressed surprise at how ‘brutal’ the market had been, with stock reaching a record low as investors sold out.[150] In September 2014 Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani cited Bathurst as an example of a mining company that was having to follow a global trend of cutting back operations in order to survive in a weakening market.[151]

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty responded to the news by stating that, “Once again Nationals’ obsession with fossil fuels has failed to create good jobs for New Zealanders . . . For a country that depends on a stable climate for its agricultural exports and markets itself to the world as clean and pure, trying to dig up more climate-polluting fossil fuels is economic suicide. We should be investing in jobs-rich sectors with proven success records like hi-tech manufacturing and IT.”[152]

Buller mayor Garry Howard, on the other hand, said that people in the Buller District would be devastated by the news, and laid the blame at the door of environmental activists, stating, ““It is simply criminal to see a well-intentioned regulatory process abused and manipulated by out-of-town elements intent on frustrating legitimate and reasonable developments.”[153]

Before proceeding with mining on the Denniston Plateau, Bathurst is required to obtain an ‘Authority to enter and operate’. Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) called on Dr Nick Smith the Minister of Conservation to not issue this licence. CANA spokesperson Cindy Baxter said, ““We could find ourselves in a situation where the company goes under, having destroyed the beautiful Denniston Plateau for absolutely nothing. The Minister of Conservation needs to step in and refuse to let the company do this.”[154]

This view was shared by Forest & Bird Field Officer Debs Martin who stated, “It would be a tragedy if Bathurst defiled the Denniston Plateau before its Australian investors decided they had had enough of pouring good money after bad into this fundamentally flawed project.”[155]

Other proposed mines in the Buller Project

Coalbrookdale Mine

Coalbrookdale and the Whareatea West blocks in the South Buller project are planned to be brought into production three to four years after mining begins on Escarpment.[156][157]

The mining rights for Coalbrookdale cover 341.4 ha of the Denniston Plateau, adjacent to the Escarpment block and Bathurst’s operating Cascade mine. Bathurst acquired the rights in July 2011 from Westport businessman, Robert Griffiths and completed the acquisition of the assets in 2012. (Together with Mrs J D Griffiths, Mr R J Griffiths holds 2.15% of Bathurst’s issued shares.)[158]

Coalbrookdale has a total resource of 7.2 MT[159] with a Run of Mine (ROM) reserve estimate of 1.8 MT.[160]

The mine has consented permits for two underground operations with the possibility of converting them to open cast permits, plus a partial permit for an open cast operation.[161] The Department of Conservation has issued access arrangement and wildlife permits, and 79 holes have been drilled across the permits.

Bathurst originally expected to start underground production at Coalbrookdale in the first quarter of 2012. In March 2013, however, the company stated that the preferred option would be opencast mining because of the lower overheads.[162] In April 2013, and again in the 2014 Annual report, Bathurst indicated that no immediate development was planned until market conditions improved.[163]

Whareatea West Project

The Whareatea West tenement is adjacent to the western boundary of Bathurst’s Escarpment Block. It has a total resource of 25.5 Mt, yielding 10.3 MT of product coal.[164] Together with Coalbrookdale, the Whareatea West blocks are planned to be the next areas in the South Buller mining project for development after Escarpment.[165] The Chairman’s report to Bathurst’s 2011 AGM indicated that exploratory drilling and studies, and approval processes for an open cut mine were expected to be completed by mid 2013, with production beginning in the last quarter of the year. During 2012–2013 a further 26 holes were drilled in the permit in preparation for the mine planning as part of the consenting process. [166]

In December 2015 Bathurst applied for a mining permit for Whareatea. This application was still being evaluated in June 2016.[167]

Deep Creek Mine

In a 2010 investor presentation Bathurst stated that the Deep Creek project, an opencast mine with a potential resource of 11–16 Mt, would be the main priority for new mines to be brought on from 2014.[168] In a later media release Bathurst estimated that Deep Creek could commence initial production in 2012/2013 increasing to full production in 2014.[169] Not all financial analysts accepted this likelihood; Chris Shaw of FNArena News predicted in Dec 2011 that the Deep Creek project would be pushed out to the end of the decade.[170] The presentation by Bathurst’s Managing Director to the 2011 AGM contained no reference to Deep Creek.[171] In Bathurst’s 2013 Annual Report the figure of 7.5 MT was cited for total product coal, which was described as being both thermal and coking[172] but there was no reference to when mining might take place.

Dealing with environmental concerns

Bathurst Resources is aware of the PR problems of being a coal company. In its 2010 Prospectus the company stated that one of the risks for potential investors stemmed from the fact that "due to the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases as a result of burning coal for energy, the continued use of coal may result in negative public perception of coal and coal mining companies." This, the company stated, was one factor which could have a negative impact on the company's financial performance. The company also cautioned potential investors that "policies being developed by various international governments may become increasingly negative towards the development and production of fossil fuels, in particular, coal. The view of the Directors is that coal should and will, have a growing role in the fuel mix if global prosperity is to be sustained. However, the company is operating in an international environment where it must abide by these laws. There is a risk that governments will take actions which will damage the economics of coal productions [sic] and thus reduce the value of the Company's assets.”[173] A 2010 report for investors by Lodge Partners Research included disruptions by environmental activists as possible threats to the project. It cited Roroa (Great Spotted Kiwis) and Powelliphantia (carnivorous snails) as endangered species that would need to be relocated into predator-controlled habitats, but made no other reference to the ecological values of the Plateau.[174]

In August 2011 Bathurst announced the appointment of Guy Salmon, the Executive director of the free-market think tank, the Ecologic Foundation, as the chairman of, "the Environmental Reference, or Kaitiaki, Group, an initiative of Bathurst Resources Limited to actively monitor and guide the environmental performance of the Company’s New Zealand operations." The company stated that the group would report to the company's board of directors and "will include independent representatives with experience in the particular environmental needs and challenges posed by operations in New Zealand." Commenting on the announcement, CEO Hamish Bohannan said, “The Bathurst Board and Management are committed to minimizing the environmental impact of our operations and to leaving a positive environmental legacy when those operations end.”[175] In 2013 the focus of the Kaitiaki Group was on providing input into the Coal Plateaux Reserves process, and on reviewing the development plans of Bathurst’s health, safety and environment management systems. The Group’s next focus is to monitor the implementation of the environment management system.[176]

The presentation given by Mr Bohannan, to the 2012 AusIMM Annual Branch Conference indicated that investor perceptions were still a cause of concern. New Zealand was perceived as too ‘Green’ for resource projects because: environmental groups will appeal any new mining projects; New Zealanders on the whole oppose coal; the court process will result in indefinite delays; there’s no other option for consenting; and the regulatory processes are too complex.[177]

In September 2012 Bathurst expressed optimism that the Government would move to facilitate mining in New Zealand. Mr Bohannan stated that he had been reassured by Energy and Resources Minister, Phil Heatley, that the government is “working on it.”[178] He also said that the company faced two groups of objectors and “they keep appealing and appealing.” Mr Bohannan said that his company was concerned about climate change but argued that because New Zealand produced six million tones of coal a year in a world that produced six billion tonnes a year there was no point in doing things differently. In May 2013 when Conservation Minister Nick Smith granted access to the Denniston plateau for mining, Mr Bohannan said, “Everyone accepts that there are parts of the Plateau with high conservation values, and our plans include modern mining techniques that will minimise impact and rehabilitate agreed areas, remedy damage caused by old mine workings and provide certainty to West Coast communities.”[179]

In August 2014 Forest & Bird alerted the Department of Conservation that smoke was rising from several cracks on the Denniston Plateau above historic mine workings. Bathurst had recently been drilling core samples and had drained a lake in the vicinity. There was concern that the whole coal seam might catch fire. In response, Conservation Minister Nick Smith said that the smoke was coming from an old mine shaft where low level underground fires had burned for decades.[180][181]

Financial situation

Shareholders

Bathurst withdrew its listing on the NZX in July 2015, citing cost-cutting reasons. As of 30 Sep 2016 the total number of shares issued were 964,482,755.[182]

Bathurst is predominantly an Australian owned company. In the August 2012 Report to the AUSIMM Annual Branch Conference it was stated that shareholdings were: 69.2% Australian, 08.2% New Zealand, and 22.6% Other.[183] Eighty seven per cent of the issued capital is held by shareholders who have invested a minimum of $100,000.[184]

In September 2013 New Zealand shareholders held about 7.4 per cent of the ordinary shares on issue. This included a shareholding of about 4.9 per cent held by one institutional investor.[185] As of Dec 2012 a number of KiwiSaver providers had investments in Bathurst.[186]

Shareholdings change constantly. In its 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports[187] Bathurst lists its 20 largest quoted equity security holders who between them hold about 61% of the issued shares. These include:

Name Percentage of issued shares (21 Aug 2013) Percentage of issued shares (2014) Percentage of issued shares (2015) Percentage of issued shares (2016)[189]
HSBC Custody Nominees (Aus) Limited 8.66 23.68 33.57 33.33
Bell Potter Nominees Limited (Aus) 4.94 3.64 3.61 3.58
Berne No 132 Nominees Pty Ltd (Aus) 3.99 2.94 2.92 2.89
J P Morgan Nominees Australia Limited 23.89 13.66 2.17 5.21
ABN - - 1.84 1.64
Mr R J Griffiths & Mrs J D Griffiths (NZ) 2.15 1.58 1.57 1.56
Merrill Lynch (Australia) Nominees Pty Ltd 1.57 1.08 1.44 1.42
Citicorp Nominees Pty Limited (Aus) 2.22 4.75 1.17 1.36
Bradfield - - 0.74 0.81
Forsyth Barr Custodians - - - 1.18
Richard Tacon - - - 0.62

Significant shareholders in previous years included L1 Capital, an independent Australian equities fund manager (max holding of 14.2%);[190] Coupland Cardiff, a UK fund manager (max 13.3%);[191] and the Bank of America (max 11.9%).[192]

Bathurst Resources is now listed on the New Zealand Companies Office Register as having an extensive shareholding and only one of the shareholders is named: Richard Tacon is recorded as holding one share. Except when announcements are made such as that of a Change in Substantial Shareholdings, it can be difficult to determine who owns Bathurst shares. For example on 15 Dec 2014 Republic Investment Management Plan (RIM) increased their shareholding from 6.69% to 7.74%. The holding was further increased to 8.84% on 18 June 2015,[193] and then to 18.54% by 05 Oct 2015. The registered holder of the securities is HSBC Custody Nominees (Australia) limited.

RIM has expressed willingness to subscribe to Bathurst’s planned convertible note issue (June 2016), which could result in RIM increasing its stakeholding in Bathurst to as much as 33.28% (see Share Placements below).

The other company that has been showing increased interest in Bathurst is Asian Dragon Acquisitions Limited, whose main focus is described as being on Chinese metals resources and markets.[194] Asian Dragon acquired a 6.05% holding in Bathurst on 18 Aug 2014. Like RIM, Asian Dragon is Singapore-based and its shares are registered in the name of HSBC.[195]

Substantial holders Substantial holders in the company as of 30 September 2016 were: Republic Investment Management Pte Limited 19.92%
Asian Dragon Acquisitions Limited 7.39%
[196]

Shareholder composition[197]
Geographical breakdown (%) of top 200 shareholders:
Singapore 57
Australia 22
New Zealand 18
UK 1
Hong Kong 1
Other 1

Share prices

Bathurst was floated on the Australian Stock Exchange in Jan 2008. It was listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in 2010 but then withdrawn in May 2015 as a cost-cutting measure. Share prices following this date are taken from the ASX and are given in AUD. [198]

Date Price
01 Jan 2017 0.077 AUD
01 Oct 2016 0.033 AUD
01 July 2016 0.012 AUD
01 Apr 2016 0.014 AUD
04 Jan 2016 0.014 AUD
01 Oct 2015 0.014 AUD
01 July 2015 0.017 AUD
01 Apr 2015 0.03 NZD
01 Jan 2015 0.03 NZD
01 July 2014 0.06 NZD
01 Jan 2014 0.21 NZD
01 Jul 2013 0.21 NZD
1 Jan 2013 0.50 NZD
2 Jul 2012 0.41 NZD
2 Jan 2012 0.91 NZD
4 Jul 2011 1.34 NZD
5 Jan 2011 1.34 NZD
12 Jul 2010 0.82 NZD
12 Jan 2010 0.74 NZD

[200]

Dividends and Profitability

Bathurst started producing coal in March 2011 when it took control of the Eastern Resources operation (Takitimu mine). The Directors’ annual reports of 2013–2015 stated that no dividend was paid or declared during the current or prior financial year and did not recommend that a dividend be paid to investors.[201]

2012-2013

At 30 June 2012 the company had AUD 53.8 million cash reserves (approx NZD 58.5 million) but at 30 June 2013 reserves were down to NZD 13.8 million. Domestic production during this period showed revenue of NZD 41.0 million and Bathurst expected to become cash flow positive within 2013. [202]

A Bathurst Investor Presentation of Feb 2013 described the company as having a strong capital position with NZ$38M in net cash at 31 December 2012. There was, however, a negative cash flow of $4.07 million in the fourth quarter of 2012.[203] and the company lost NZ$7.68m after tax for the six months to December 2012.[204]

Bathurst's 2013 Annual Report stated that the loss for the year after tax had been $20.439 million. Cash outflows were $55.4m, including $24.8m of capital spend and $10m of exploration spend.[205] Taking other comprehensive income into account, there was a total loss of $19.074 million in 2013, compared to $23.916 million in 2012. [206]

Further heavy expenditure was planned for the following years. Ramping up of Escarpment’s production to more than 1Mtpa [now delayed] was estimated to cost $84m. Bathurst’s domestic operations were expected to incur a $15m conditional payment for the acquisition of New Brighton Collieries Ltd and an expenditure of $6m on on-going requirements. Day-to-day running of the company also incurred significant expenditure, for example auditors fees in 2013 amounted to $265,000.[207]

In September 2013 Bathurst completed a NZ$18.9-million share placement to institutional and sophisticated investors. The company placed some 104.9 million shares at $0.18 each in order to provide additional working capital to fund its existing operations and the resource consenting process for Escarpment.[208] The company then offered additional shares to Australian investors only under a share purchase plan to raise up to $6.16 million. The offer was not made to New Zealand shareholders because there was such a small number of them.[209]

2014 – 2015

Further share offerings in 2014 had mixed success. On 16 April Bathurst announced that it had raised AU$7.4 million (before costs) through a placement of approximately 123 million fully paid ordinary shares. Apart from $18.9 million raised from institutional investors the previous September, cash and short-term deposits were down to $10 million. Later in the month the Board resolved to issue 123,187,640 ordinary shares to institutional and other sophisticated and professional investors. The net proceeds of the placement would be used for working capital purposes. In July Bathurst then offered 41,083,998 shares to eligible shareholders at a price of NZ$0.065 per share. The allotment of new shares was scheduled to take place on 9 July but on 08 July only 2,146,913 of the shares had been subscribed for, worth less than $140,000.[210]

Bathurst reported a loss of NZD8 million for the quarter ending Dec 2013.[211] On 03 March 2014, however, Bathurst’s preliminary half-year report stated that the consolidated entity had made a profit of NZD8.1m, including a NZD217,000 income tax benefit. Profits of NZD7.6m from operating mines were significantly less than the NZD12.5m of costs incurred, but deferred consideration adjustments, including unrealised foreign exchange gains, contributed to an overall profit.

Accounts for the 2013 financial year had recorded total non-current assets at $464.1 million, of which $413.3 million was held in mine licences, properties, exploration and evaluation assets. Most of the remainder was in plant and equipment. On 29 Aug 2014 Bathurst announced that it was writing down the value of non-current assets by $449.9 million. The impairment adjustment resulted from low coking coal prices, delay of coal production at Escarpment and the high NZD exchange rate. The adjustment was non-cash in nature, as was the gain of $169 million recorded against the project as the mine wouldn’t be producing coal until prices improved. In addition there would be no royalties or financial obligations linked to export coal shipments due in the foreseeable future. Consequently, the company posted a $188.9 million loss for the year to June. Bathurst’s domestic operations had also run at a loss with revenues of $55.7m against overall operating expenses of $59.3m, resulting in an operating loss before tax of $3.6m. Cash reserves were down to $8.8 million. The year ended with a cash positive quarter, but the current quarter (July–Oct 2014) was expected to show a small net cash outflow due to the seasonal slowing in the dairy sector. [212][213]

In Nov 2014 Bathurst held its annual meeting in Wellington after a year in which it wrote off the $449.9 million value of its Buller coal project. The company was trying hard to improve its financial position but in Dec 2014 its subsidiary, Buller Coal, lost an application in the High Court to claim interest on a $4 million advance to Brightwater Engineers, the consultant for the Escarpment mine. Buller had terminated the contract in May 2014. The judge stated that, "Buller cannot alter Brightwater's obligations just because the viability of the project did not turn out as expected."[214]

The budget for 2015 was based on increasing coal sales and an increased coal price in the domestic market. It didn’t include the possibility of taking austerity measures such as a further reduction in head office staffing, complete halt to exploration activity and deferral of future consenting costs. The report warned about the 2016 expiry date for a major commercial domestic sales contract that allowed Bathurst to sell coal in the domestic market at a profit while international coal prices recovered.[215]

In Feb 2015 Bathurst posted a first-half loss of $6.9 million with a cash outflow of $2.6 million (2013: $3.4m). The second quarter of the year was operationally cash positive, following an efficiency review completed in 2014 which resulted in reduced cost throughout the business. The company had $5.9m in cash and short term restricted deposits at 31 December 2014. 208,534 tonnes of coal were mined, and 181,811 tonnes were sold.[216]

The report for the three months ending 30 June 2015 stated that the company had been operations cash positive for the third consecutive quarter. There was a positive operating cash flow of $1.0 million compared to an outflow of $16.7 million for the previous year. Nevertheless, the group reported a net loss after tax of $16.4M in the 12 month period to 30 June 2015, compared with a net loss of $188.9 M the previous year.

The company was described as embarking “on a new strategic direction leveraging off a profitable domestic business.” The main focus remained the “implementation of companywide cost efficiencies whilst effecting specific measures to increase profitability at each of the operational sites.” Development of the export business remained a key objective but Bathurst wouldn’t press ahead until satisfied that the operation could establish a margin.[217][218]

In September 2015 Chief Executive Richard Tacon said that the company was definitely interested in acquiring some of Solid Energy’s coal assets, but on the other hand did not want to “grab the poison chalice” by having unworkable permits at a time of record low prices. He stated that Bathurst had a 2016 target of producing 450,000 tonnes of domestic coal from its three South Island mines, and expected that some ‘spot sales’ would help offset the loss of West Coast cement maker Holcim as a customer. Mr Tacon was optimistic that, even if Bathurst didn’t purchase Solid Energy assets, it could still have synergies such as sharing infrastructure with other potential purchasers.[219]

The company had a target for FY 2016 of NZ$73/tonne as the average cash cost of mining. It was also planning for a 17% reduction of administration overheads from FY14.[220] The aim was to “Focus on margins not coal price”. [221]

Domestic operations were seen as having development potential ranging between 2.0 million tonnes (Black Diamond) and 4.2 million tonnes (New Brighton). [222] The planned export operations had development potential ranging from 3.4 million tonnes (Coalbrookdale) to 18.4 million tonnes (Whareatea West). [223]

2016

In Feb 2016 Bathurst reported a net profit after tax for the six months ended 31 December 2015 of $0.1m, compared with a net loss of $7.2m in the comparable period in 2014. The company referred to their operational efficiency initiatives as being responsible for delivering these results. As a result of the positive operational cash result over the previous 12 months, on 31 Dec 2015 Bathurst transitioned from being classified as an exploration company on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) to classification as a production company. During this period the Bathurst Group mined 250,437 t of coal (20% higher than the previous corresponding period) and sold 202,679 t.[224]

Bathurst went on to have a cash positive quarter for the three months ending 31 March 2016 with cash and restricted deposits totalling $6.2 million, up by $0.6m from the previous quarter. The quarterly report stated that production again exceeded forecast despite a challenging period for the dairy sector – eg drought conditions in Canterbury and Central Otago – having an impact on coal supply. Escarpment 10,140 tonnes Takitimu 75,410 Canterbury Coal 20,007 TOTAL 105,287 A total of 1,025,996 tonnes of overburden were removed.[225]

Bathurst considered that the domestic sales of approximately 400,000 tonnes per annum provided a sound revenue stream to underpin the company’s operations. The key focus was to drive lower costs from the business and to increase the productivity rates, while exploring all opportunities to increase market share. [226]

On 19 April 2016 Bathurst announced that it was planning to raise about A$4.3 million in an underwritten convertible note issue in order to refinance its existing facilities, allow the evaluation of an impending coal opportunity in New Zealand and for working capital. Republic Investment Management (RIM) had agreed to subscribe for at least $2.3 million of the issue and to underwrite the balance which would otherwise be available to professional investors.[227] A special meeting of shareholders was called for 23 June 2016 seeking approval for the issue of a maximum of 193,181,818 ordinary shares to RIM on the conversion (if any) of its Convertible Notes, and the issue of up to a maximum of 90,909,091 ordinary Shares to professional investors taking up the balance of the convertible note issue. If approved, this would give RIM a potential shareholding of between 25.43% and 33.28% in Bathurst.[228] An Independent Adviser concluded that the positive aspects of the proposal would outweigh the negative aspects such as the dilutionary impact of the increased share issue and the increased level of control that RIM would hold over the company. [229]

Bathurst’s Consolidated Income Statement for the year ending 30 June 2016 showed that the company had made a profit for the first time – of $1.031m NZD.[230]

The balance sheet showed accumulated losses of $194,565,000.The directors did not recommend the payment of a dividend.[231]

Factors affecting future profitability

Coking coal prices After coking coal prices soared between June and November 2016, they started to plummet in December. The extreme volatility of coking coal prices continued in early 2017. For example, during the first week of trading alone, Australian premium hard coking coal prices dropped by 17%. At that stage it was $120 below the multi-year high of $308.80 reached in Nov 2016. However, the Australian benchmark metallurgical coal contract price was forecast to average $186 a tonne in 2017, still a 63% increase from 2016.[232]

In its Market Presentation of Nov 2017, Bathurst acknowledges that coal supply is dependent on the price being adequate to make the project economic. This in turn depends on factors such as world production levels, international economic trends, exchange rate fluctuations and consumption patterns, all of which are impossible to predict with any certainty. There is no assurance that even if commercial quantities of coal are produced, a profitable market will exist for them.[233]

Environmental issues Bathurst’s long term goals include a massive expansion of their project on the Denniston Plateau. At present, the NZ Government plans to carry out significant changes to the Resources Management Act, which are likely to make it easier for mining companies to gain the necessary consents. However, the general election which will be held on 23 Sep 2017 may bring in a government more favourably disposed to environmental protection. Acquiring SE assets includes a Crown indemnity for the rehabilitation of historic environmental liabilities. This indemnity is for a fixed amount, which could be less than the actual costs incurred.[234]

Arrangement with L&M Coal Apart from the unpredictability of coking coal prices, an important factor affecting Bathurst’s future profitability is the deferred cash consideration payable to L&M Coal. This is made up of two payments of US$40 million; the first being payable upon 25,000 tonnes of coal being shipped from the Buller Coal Project, and the second upon a further one million tonnes being shipped. In addition, there will be a royalty payment due to L&M. The performance payments are secured by way of a first-ranking security interest in all of Buller’s present and future assets. Bathurst has taken the option of deferring the cash payment of the performance payments, and paying a higher royalty rate until such time as they have been covered.[235]

However, in Dec 2016 L&M announced that it would file legal proceedings to recover US$40 million (NZ53.7m) of the performance payment as Bathurst had reached the trigger of 25,000 tonnes of coal product. Bathurst stated that it would fight any legal action.[236]

Acquisition of Solid Energy assets Although BT Mining (formerly Phoenix Coal) is acquiring Solid Energy assets at what might be described as a very moderate price, the company will also be acquiring various financial obligations. For example, Bathurst has never paid a dividend to investors, but it now plans to issue USD100,000 bonds to overseas Singaporean investors at a fixed rate of 10.0% per annum.[237] BNZ is providing a NZ15m bank debt facility to help fund the purchase.[238]

Talley’s, Bathurst’s partner in the enterprise, is primarily known as a food producer, especially seafood. On its website, Talley’s states that the industry invests considerable resources in environmental protection.[239]

The news that the company was involved in the purchase of a number of coal mines amazed both brand specialists and conservation advocates. Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell commented, “"There's a real irony that a company that relies on a healthy ocean is in fact also mining the very coal that is going to actually threaten that marine environment and therefore the future of fishing."[240]

Divestment

Once the legal battle to save Denniston appeared to have reached the end of the road, a major focus of protest by environmentalists became a divestment campaign spear-headed by Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) and 350 Aotearoa. In September 2013, five NZ Anglican Church dioceses had committed to divesting themselves of fossil fuel investments.[241]

Bathurst’s banker is Westpac which also offers loan and credit facilities to. the company. During the first week of December 2013, a nationwide week of action saw protest events directed at Westpac staged in thirteen cities and towns around New Zealand. Follow-up action was planned for the new year.[242]

February 13–14 2015 was marked as the first Global Divestment Day when hundreds of events around the world called on institutions to divest from fossil fuels.[243]

Board of Bathurst Resources Ltd (formerly Bathurst NZ Ltd)

Bathurst’s Board underwent major changes following the decisions to carry out major cost-cutting measures and to delay carrying out full-scale mining at Escarpment. In November 2014 Bathurst announced that as a result of its continued review of costs and efficiency initiatives the Board would be reduced from six members to just three: Malcolm MacPherson (Chairman), Hamish Bohannan (Managing Director), and Tokotangi Kapea [185] On 24 March 2015 came the shock announcement that Hamish Bohannan, who joined Bathurst in 2008 and “played a critical role building and implementing the strategic growth of the company in New Zealand”, had resigned as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer in order to “seek a fresh challenge”.[244] Mr Bohannan received a final payout of $1.777 m, including a ‘net loan forgiveness’ of $0.731 m.[245]

Richard Tacon was appointed as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director with no fixed term. His total fixed remuneration would be NZ$400,000 per annum with additional share bonuses and short and long term incentives.[246] In the year ended 30 June 2015 Mr Tacon’s total remuneration was $614,450.[247]

Further changes followed as Chairman, Malcolm Macpherson, signalled his intention to retire; Russell Middleton and Peter Westerhuis were appointed to the Board[248] and Bill Lyne was appointed as Company Secretary, following the resignation of Graham Anderson.[249]

Directors[250]
Name Start date Country/Aus State
Tokorangi Thomas KAPEA 29 May 2013 NZ
Russell Lee Scott MIDDLETON 29 April 2015 Australia
Richard TACON 01 April 2015 NZ
Pier WESTERHUIS 29 April 2015 Australia

[251]

Employees remuneration

During the year ended 30 June 2016, 24 of the 80 employees (excluding the chief executive officer) received individual remuneration over $100,000.[252]

Donations[253]

During the year ended 30 June 2015, the company made donations to six charities totalling $16,205.[254]

The following year donations totalled $11,950.[255]

Contact details

Level 12, 1 Willeston Street
, Wellington 6011
PO Box 5963, Lambton Quay, Wellington 6145, New Zealand
Tel: +64 4 499 6830 
Fax: +64 4 974 5218
Email: wellington@bathurstresources.co.nz

Australian registered office
10 Ngeringa Crescent
Chapel Hill
Qld 4069, Australia
TEl: +61 7 3378 7673

Website address: www.bathurstresources.co.nz

Share registry Computershare Investor Services Limited
159 Hurstmere Rd
Takapuna Central 0622
New Zealand

Auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers
113-119 The Terrace
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Solicitor Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Lawyers
125 The Terrace
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

Banker ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited

Stock exchange listing Bathurst Resources Limited shares are listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) under the code BRL.[256]

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