9 Sep 2012

No decision on Spring Creek workers - Solid Energy

8:43 pm on 9 September 2012

Solid Energy says it expects to know early next week if miners can return to work underground at Spring Creek on the West Coast.

Last week, the state-owned company announced it was cutting jobs, suspending mining operations and reviewing other businesses, as part of a drastic overhaul as it faces a $200 million fall in revenues this year.

It has suspended operations at Spring Creek pending a review, affecting about 230 staff and 140 contractors.

Workers have been off the job on full pay since Wednesday last week. Solid Energy says it is concerned that stress over the mine's uncertain future made it unsafe them below ground.

The company says it is committed to retaining their skilled staff and on Thursday night agreed to let mine workers join the review process.

It is working with the union and workers to see if a return to work at the mine can be made safely and should know before Wednesday.

Solid Energy chief executive officer Don Elder says it is clear that people are keen to get back to work and the company will contact staff directly to advise when a start date might be possible.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce met with Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn on Friday to discuss options for Spring Creek, but says a start date for workers was not discussed.

Mr Kokshoorn had said that miners would be back at work on Monday.

Along with suspending operations at Spring Creek, Solid Energy last week said 140 jobs must go in coal operations and at its head office.

It was to cut 63 positions at its Huntly East mine in Waikato, which employs about 230 people, and seek voluntary redundancies.

Funding not being ruled out - Joyce

Steven Joyce says Government capital for Solid Energy has not been ruled out.

The minister met with the company's group manager of coal on Friday to discuss the situation. Mr Joyce says he has not promised a bailout, but if Solid Energy has a good business plan there may be funding options.

"Ministers get approached by state-owned enterprises to invest capital at different times. The thing that they would be interested in would be what's the reason for doing it and what's the opportunity.

"There's a number of things that are up in the air with Solid Energy's business plan at the moment that they need to work through with the new chair."