Work resumes at New Zealand Escarpment coal mine

Work resumes at New Zealand Escarpment coal mine

Bathurst Resources (ASX:BRL) said Monday it has began initial work at its Escarpment coal mine on the Denniston Plateau near Westport, New Zealand.

The move comes after the company said earlier in the year it was postponing production ramp up at the mine as a result of low coal prices.

Work in a first phase will be slow, said the company.

"The intention is to prepare the site to a point where we can quickly ramp up to steady state mining when the price of export coking coal recovers,” the miner’s managing director Hamish Bohannan said.

The company said that a small team of workers is now engaged full time on site, fences and signage have been erected.

Additionally, current activities are paving way for coal storage, site infrastructure and initial earthworks for the installation of water management systems.

Bathurst plans to conduct further preliminary site works at the mine. However it warned full development of the mine site will be deferred until international coking coal prices improve.

Aussie coal miners hit hardest

Coal prices have fallen by at least 30% in the past two years, forcing miners to take drastic measures.

In March, mining and commodity trader giant Glencore Xstrata (LON:GLEN) said it will close its Ravensworth underground coal mine, also in Australia’s Hunter Valley, in September this year, citing falling prices and stock surplus as main reasons.

BHP Billiton, which through its partnership with Mitsubishi Corp. is the world's largest coking-coal exporter, has also closed several mines recently, including its Norwich Park and Gregory operations in eastern Australia because of weak prices.

The Australian economy is highly dependent on the black rock: coal is Australia's second-biggest export commodity and the industry is one of the country's largest employers.

The ANZ bank said earlier this month it expects between 50,000 and 75,000 mining jobs to be lost in Australia over the next couple of years as the industry's US$427 billion (A$450bn) investment on new capacity slows.