Environmental award for extinguishing 60-year-old Southland coalmine fire

Environmental award for extinguishing 60-year-old Southland coalmine fire

Posted on 6 June 2018



Greenbriar Limited has won the inaugural NZ Minerals Forum environmental management award for how it handled the extinguishment and mitigation of a 60-year-old underground fire at its Ohai coalmine in Southland.


The award for “the strongest overall demonstration of excellent environmental management and preservation” was one of three given out at the recent the NZ Minerals Forum to recognise excellence in mining and quarrying. 


The other winners, chosen from eight finalists, were OceanaGold Waihi, which won the innovation award and Christchurch-based Road Metals, which won health and safety award.


Chair of the judging panel Bernie Napp said Greenbriar Ohai Coal was given the award for the completion of both the extinguishing of the historical fire and the undertaking of diverse environmental mitigation measures.


Greenbriar, which is owned by a Dunedin collective, bought the Ohai and New Vale Coal mines from Solid Energy last year. It inherited the historical fire at the Ohai mine that broke out at the M12 coal seam at Pit 6 back in the 1950s. The mine closed in the 1980s with the coal seam continuing to burn. Solid Energy put a plan in place to starve the fire of oxygen and rehabilitate the land and Greenbriar continued with the plan and brought it to completion.


New Vale and Ohai Coal general manager Antony Stodart said the company was committed to responsible and sustainable resource development.


“We pride ourselves on returning the land and environment where we operate to a condition better than when we found it.”


Environmental risks arising from the fire at Ohai included the release of gas emissions, ground instability leading to sink holes, unplanned vegetation fires, and potential contamination of the nearby Morley Stream.


“If left untouched, the land would be unstable, have no intrinsic value and continue to pollute and threaten the environment,” Antony Stodart said.


Through a collective effort by Solid Energy, Greenbriar and contractors GeoTech, the fire hazard was eliminated and the land is now in its final stages of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation and end-of-mine-life landform was compatible with contemporary environmental design standards set by the Southland Regional Council and complied with water catchment plans.


While ownership of the mine changed a number of times since the fire started, many of the former Solid Energy employees were retained and actively involved in seeing the project through.





About the Minerals Forum


The New Zealand Minerals Forum is a two-day conference and exhibition covering mining in New Zealand. It is designed: to showcase the New Zealand mining sector to stakeholders and prospective investors; and educate and inform the New Zealand mining community. It attracts high-level attendance from mining companies, government regulators and agencies, the investment community and service companies.


The event is a joint venture between the industry association Straterra and Freeman Media, publisher of Inside Resources. New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals is the Foundation Partner.


About Straterra


Straterra is the industry association representing the New Zealand minerals and mining sector. Our membership is comprised of mining companies (including coal and gold), explorers, researchers, service providers, and support companies.




Jeremy Harding

Communications Manager


027 631 6161



Antony Stodart

General Manager

New Vale & Ohai Coal

021 318 569