29 Jan 2016

Brothers face opposition to mining dream

9:11 am on 29 January 2016

Two Auckland brothers are determined to see out their 40-year dream of mining a plateau near the Mokau river.

Murray and Ian Sampson , who are in their 70s, have made two resource consent applications to the Waikato Regional Council to dam and discharge water.

Submissions on the applications are open until next Tuesday.

The Coal Action Network has urged people to oppose them, saying open cast mining in the North Island's largest coalfield is a terrible idea.

But Dr Murray Sampson, who manages Mokau South Resources, said that was not the case.

"We started in 1985 and we have been frustrated by all sorts of things and having to take the government to court a couple of times.

"You get an emotional commitment and have got to be careful that that emotional commitment doesn't force you to do things which are financially unrealistic. But in this case some of the coal there is mine-able at current prices, so it's a good asset."

Plunging prices have laid low state-owned coal miner Solid Energy and this week the small West Coast mine Roa shut up shop, laying off 20 workers.

However, taking a longer-term view, Murray Sampson cited a recent Exxon market forecast that coal, though slipping, would still be the world's third-largest source of energy in 2040.

Mr Sampson, 73, and his 75-year-old brother and business partner Ian, had people ready to step in if they could not see the project through.

"One of the most important things you have to do in a situation like this is have people around you who could do the job if we dropped down dead," Dr Sampson said.

"And so we have consultants and lawyers and engineers and this thing can continue as an entity with or without us."

It helped they already had a mining licence for the site, on the Panirau Plateau, 20 kilometres east of Mokau township, he said.

Murray Sampson believed getting consents now would improve their chances of successfully suing a would-be buyer, after a deal fell apart several years ago.

The buyer had cited trouble getting consents as their reason for pulling out.

"It's not Don Quixote because we win. It's Don Quixote if you don't win, but we win."

The brothers put in an ecological assessment to the council from a consultant they hired, which said there would be minor impact.

Coal Action Network spokesman Tim Jones disagreed.

"It's a really, really bad idea to be strip-mining in an area of regenerating native bush near to a stream with high ecological values and in the catchment of the Mokau River.

"Frankly, their ecological assessment is one of the worst pieces of work I have ever seen in a resource consent application. I should add that Waikato Regional Council has already sent the applicant away to do more work ... it does suggest that some council officers may have a level of disquiet about this application."

In the company's application, the ecological impact consultant said that time constraints had prevented it from visiting the Panirau plateau, and it had only taken water samples from downstream.

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