Thursday, 20 January 2011

Coal mining past present and future links with rail development & heritage (West Coast / Canterbury, South Island)

Coal mining is a past, present and future industrial activity in NZ. Rail heritage is inextricably connected with coal whether it is from heritage railway operations, access to historic sites or interest in current facilities development for the production of coal. This article does not have any position on the merits or detractions of coal mining itself. There is a list below of current/historic mining operations and their relation to rail and heritage in the South Island West Coast and Canterbury regions. This list may well be incomplete. It is the major mines only, it would take me forever to hunt down all the many mines particularly smaller ones.
Name Location Status/Notes Rail/heritage significance
Stockton Mines Stockton Production Stockton inclined railway
Seddonville State Mines Seddonville Closed [1] Seddonville branch railway
Mokihinui Mines Seddonville Closed [2] Seddonville branch railway, recovered WB locomotives
Charming Creek Mine Seddonville/Ngakawau Closed Seddonville branch railway, Charming Creek tramway
Waimangaroa-Denniston mines (Banbury, Koranui, Wharatea, Coalbrookdale, Sullivan, Cedar, Burnetts Face) Denniston Plateau Closed [3] Conns Creek branch railway, Seddonville branch railway, Denniston Incline, Koranui Incline, Banbury Skip Road
Cascade Mine Denniston/Cascade Production [4] Stillwater-Westport Railway
Escarpment Mine Denniston Plateau Development [5] Proximity to historic features
Millerton Mines Millerton-Stockton Closed [6] Millerton inclined railway
Canterbury Coal Co Homebush Production [7] Whitecliffs branch railway
New Creek Mine New Creek/Cascade Production
Pike River Paparoa Range Suspended [8] Ikamatua rail loading facility
Strongman Underground / Opencast Mines Nine Mile, Greymouth Closed [9] Rapahoe branch railway
Mt Davy Underground Mine Seven Mile, Greymouth Closed [10]
Liverpool Underground Mines Rewanui (Seven Mile), Greymouth Closed Rewanui branch railway
Spring Creek Underground Mine Rapahoe, Greymouth Production
Terrace Mines Reefton Closed [11]
Blackball / Roa Mines Blackball Production [12] Blackball branch railway
Rockies Mine Granity Production [13]
Burkes Creek Reefton Production [14]
Island Block Reefton Production
Echo Reefton Production [15]
Giles Creek Reefton Production [16]
Berlins Creek Berlins Production [17]
Springfield Mine Springfield Closed [18]
Mt Somers Mine Mount Somers Closed [19]
Avoca Mine Avoca Closed [20]
Boatmans Mine Cronadun, Reefton Unknown [21]
  1. Seddonville had the country’s first State mines operating in Chasm Creek.
  2. Mokihinui Mines operated in Mokihinui River / Coal Creek and were privately owned.
  3. Sullivan West underground mine was Solid Energy’s last mines on Denniston Plateau, closing 1996. After closure of the Denniston Incline, coal was transported to Waimangaroa where it was loaded at the East Backshunt into rail wagons. In the last decade Department of Conservation have restored parts of the Denniston Incline and Banbury Skip Road along with public access to much of the Plateau. Cedar Mine or other nearby is currently burning.
  4. Cascade Mine has been in production nearly 100 years. Coal was originally flumed down to Cascade station in the Stillwater-Wesport Railway, Buller Gorge, well before the public opening of that section. It was railed to Westport. However Cascade station has been closed many years suggesting coal has been trucked across the Denniston Plateau latterly. It appears Cascade has been privately owned for much (all?) of its life. The current operation is opencast.
  5. Escarpment Mine is a historic underground mine being redeveloped as opencast by private interests (Bathurst Mining with L&M Coal). It is due to open in the next 2-3 years. Under the development proposal, coal will be slurried to Fairdown on the coast for rail loadout.
  6. Millerton’s historic mines are in the vicinity of Stockton Opencast mine. Stockton Mines are planning to opencast the historical workings which are in some areas burning.
  7. Canterbury Coal Co’s Malvern operations have historically been privately operated for about 100 years or more in the Whitecliffs area.
  8. Production at Pike River underground mine has been suspended since 19 November 2010 when an underground explosion killed 29 mine workers. The mine’s future remains uncertain as it is in receivership and various inquiries are ongoing. Currently coal stockpiles are being transported and loaded as receivers look to realise liquid assets.
  9. Parts of the Strongman underground mines have sealed up since the 1967 explosion that killed 19 workers. In the 1990s as the remaining underground mines came to the end of their lives, fire broke out in some of the workings. Solid Energy is required to manage and control these fires as part of its environmental remediation works in the area.
  10. Mount Davy Mine production was suspended twice after death of three workers in accidents. The mine was permanently closed after the second occasion and is being rehabilitated.
  11. Terrace Mines were privately owned until Solid Energy bought them out in 1988. Since SE’s closure the mine has been sold December 2010 to Crusader Coal.
  12. Several mines have been historically developed in the Blackball area. Currently only Francis Minings’ Roa underground mine is operational. In 2006 a worker at the Roa Mine died in an accident.
  13. Rockies Mine is located on the hill above Granity, and very close to Stockton Coalfield. It is owned by the private company Rockies Mining, which is based in Greymouth but has its registered office in Ashburton. Solid Energy also mine an area called “Rockies” at Stockton.
  14. There are currently two mining operations at Burkes Creek; one that Solid Energy took over from a private owner in 2004, and the separate Burkes Creek Coal Party.
  15. Francis Minings’ Echo mine is said to be at the end of its economic life in recent commentary.
  16. Giles Creek opencast mine is operated by Birchfield Coal.
  17. Heaphy Mining operates Berlins Creek opencast mine at Berlins, near Inangahua.
  18. Few details are known at this time of the mines at Springfield except that they were operating in the 1940s.
  19. Various mines have been developed historically in the Mount Somers area. The last underground mine was operational into the latter half of the 20th century but the date it was closed is somewhat uncertain. A small scale open cast mine was operational in the late 1990s but appears to have closed since.
  20. The Mt Torlesse Coal Co’s mines at Broken River were active between 1917 and 1928. Many remains can still be found today.
  21. Not much can yet be found about Boatmans [Creek] mine. There was an accident in 1985 that claimed 4 lives. A company holds a mining permit for the general area under the name of Boatmans Opencast allowing for both underground and opencast operations.
The maps particularly SWL_Main, SWL_Other and ML_Other are being updated with all of the known mining locations in the Buller coalfield.