12 May 2014

More mining seen as Solid Energy's saviour

3:10 pm on 12 May 2014

Solid Energy hopes to get back in profit by exploiting more land to mine for coal.

The Green Party opposes the plan but the financially troubled State coal company has the support of the Government and the Labour Party.

After losing money and going deeply into debt, Solid Energy survived only after the Government put together a bail-out package supported by its banks.

In its strategic issues letter for 2014, obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act, Solid Energy said it wants to increase its coal production.

Greens energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said that is the wrong approach. But Labour's State-owned Enterprises spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove said it makes perfect sense.

Union, businesses happy

The Engineering, Manufacturing & Printing Union is happy the company is focusing on its core business again.

Assistant national secretary Ged O'Connell said new mines take three to five years to open and it's important the company begins development now to ensure it stays in business.

The Grey District Business Association vice chairman Clark Ellery says getting people back into high-wage jobs will inject money into the area.

Mr Ellery says it will also give more work to engineering companies who service the mining industry.

SOE Minister Tony Ryall said it's important the company plans ahead, but in the short-term it faces a continued problem of very low international prices for coal.