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NZ coal mine halts work over rockfall collapse

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Bathurst Resources Takitimu coal mine has halted production after WorkSafe inspectors handed down probation notices last week.

The mine, in New Zealand’s Southland, was issued the prohibition notice on Friday after WorkSafe’s High Hazards Unit inspectors raised concerns over the potential risk of roof collapse or rock fall during extraction, according to the Southland times.

In basic terms, there was a risk of material above the working area falling onto those working below," WorkSafe New Zealand’s Tony Forster said.

However both Bathurst Resources COO Richard Tacon and Forster said there was no immediate danger to workers, adding that they are now discussing a work resumption plan and how to rectify the issue.

“As part of that plan, the company has voluntarily agreed to stop coal extraction in the area of most concern until work is carried out to make the area safe,” Forster said.

"The company has also agreed to provide the High Hazards Unit with the plan by the end of the week that outlines how it intends to avoid a repeat of the failure found by inspectors.

"On that basis, the High Hazards Unit has lifted the prohibition notice, but I should stress that there will be no coal extraction in the area of the mine that is of concern until the . . . unit is completely satisfied that it can be done in a way that ensures every person on site is safe.”

This is the latest stumbling block for Bathurst, which last week announced an indefinite delay to mining at its Escarpment coal mine, in Buller.

About 30 staff will be made redundant because of the announcement, positions from administrative and corporate support areas.

Bathurst would have recruited up to 100 staff this year for production, a situation that will not go ahead until coal prices improve.

In addition, the board of Bathurst Resources have agreed to an immediate pay reduction of up to 30 per cent, and will not go ahead with the replacement of former chairman Craig Monroe, in order to reduce the size of the board.

Its Takitimu employees around 44 staff and contractors.

No word has been put forwad on how it will overcome the roof instability during extraction.

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