18 Nov 2023

West Coast trust invests $3m in minerals company

6:49 am on 18 November 2023

By Lee Scanlon of The Westport News

Refined heavy mineral concentrate at Westland Mineral Sands Nine Mile site

Refined heavy mineral concentrate at Westland Mineral Sands' Nine Mile site. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Development West Coast (DWC) is investing $3 million in Westland Mineral Sands.

WMS, a minerals, ports and logistics company, has established a heavy mineral sands mine at Cape Foulwind, near Westport, and is planning another mine at Mananui, south of Hokitika.

DWC chief executive Heath Milne said DWC's investment gave the trust a stake in the company.

He declined to reveal how much of WMS would be owned by DWC, but said it would be the trust's largest investment in one company for some time.

"I think [WMS] have actually proven themselves, that they can achieve what their objectives are and the market for heavy mineral sands and other critical minerals is certainly growing," Milne said.

"We see it as a diversification of the minerals industry into an area that is meeting global demand and fits with the current global narrative of moving towards renewable energy etc these minerals are a critical part of that."

Also, the West Coast's skill set had traditionally been in mineral extraction, Milne said.

WMS Group chair Duncan Hardie said the partnership with DWC gave West Coast communities a stake in the company's future.

"We are making a long-term commitment to the West Coast and we want to leave a lasting legacy for future generations," Hardie said.

"This support will help us on the path to growing our operations, creating jobs, continue our local spending with other businesses and industries and help us support community initiatives through sponsorship, giving the West Coast economy a real boost."

DWC was set up in 2001 as a trust funded by a $92m contribution from the government in recognition of the privatisation of much of the Coast's infrastructure. It distributes, invests and manages the funds on behalf of the region.

WMS Group managing director Ray Mudgway said the investment was a vote of confidence in his company's vision and another major milestone in moving from promise to production.

"We have proven ourselves to be a company which follows through on its commitments to our communities, whether that's through ensuring our activities are as low impact as possible or through our support for our local sports teams and regional initiatives like the Kawatiri Coastal Trail," Mudgway said.

The company planned to seek resource consent for a second site at Mananui through a publicly notified process and was preparing for the arrival of its motorised barge for low carbon transport of its product in the first quarter of 2024, he said.

The barge will be based in Westport, where WMS already employs about 40 people.

WMS has previously said the Manaui mine would be bigger than its Cape Foulwind predecessor, would support 65 to 70 mining jobs and require support from up to 24 shipping and trucking jobs.

It said the mine could be operating late next year or early 2025. The mineral sand would be trucked about 50km to the port of Greymouth to be loaded on to the same barge that would serve the Cape Foulwind mine.

WMS has resource consent to transfer sand from the barge to bulk export ships moored in Buller Bay and is seeking consent for similar transfers off Greymouth.

- This article originally appeared in The Westport News.