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New Zealand's coal mining industry includes reserves that are expected to last hundreds of years. These images from a West Coast open cast mine provide a glimpse into the many jobs involved in making today's coal mine an environmentally friendly operation.
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Photo 1. A 190 ton digger loads rock from a layer of overburden at open cast coal mine near Westport, New Zealand. The hard sandstone overburden may be up to 10 metres thick here. It is carted away to areas where mining has been completed so the site can be rehabilitated with native plants.
Photo 2. A 70 tonne truck raises dust at the Stockton open cast coal mine near Westport, New Zealand. Stockton produces some of the best quality coal in the world. It is mostly sold for export to steel-producing factories in China and India.
Photo 3. A 40 ton digger loads coal at Stockton open cast coal mine near Westport, New Zealand. A good digger operator here can skim off different grades of coal within the same seam, making sure that the mine is gaining its optimum return from a non-renewable resource.
Photo 4. This steel infrastructure for loadout facilities at a coal mine carried washed bituminous coal to huge piles, ready for transport by truck to a similar conveyor belt at a railway siding. From there, trains carried the coal to the Port of Lyttleton in New Zealand's South Island.
Photo 5. A pair of diggers remove high grade coal from a seam at an open cast coal mine on March 4, 2015 near Westport, New Zealand. We waited until both diggers were in sync for this photo - a bit like watching ballet dancers getting the timing just right.
Photo 6. A 190 ton digger loads rock from a layer of overburden at an open cast coal mine near Westport, New Zealand. These 130 ton trucks are loaded in minutes with only four scoops from the big digger bucket.
Photo 7. The morning sun casts long shadows from the steel infrastructure for loadout facilities at a coal mine.
Photo 8. A coal washing facility at an open cast coal mine helps to glean more value from coal taken at the interface between the coal seam and overburden. Water is used to float off the coal and separate rocks so that the coal is ready for sale.
Photo 9. A truck carries a 90 ton load of coal at an open cast coal mine near Westport, New Zealand. These trucks are valued at more than a million dollars.
Photo 10. Coal washing facility at the Pike River Coal mine circa 2010 near Greymouth, New Zealand. This mine was later closed after an explosion killed 29 men. Their bodies have never been recovered because of safety concerns and the mine has been decommissioned.
Photo 11. A digger removes high grade coal from a seam at an open cast coal mine near Westport, New Zealand. Once coal is removed, overburden from another part of the mine is dumped here to create artificial hillsides which will then be replanted with native vegetation and restocked with native animals.
Photo 12. A well-labelled pipe carries bituminous coal slurry to a processing plant at a coal mine in New Zealand. Coal at this mine was washed from the coalface with high pressure water and pumped through several kilometres of pipeline to the washing facility before being stockpiled and exported to steel manufacturing plants in India and China.
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