Part of the Stockton Opencast Mine
Stockton Mine, on the Stockton Coal Field, is New Zealand's largest opencast mining operation. The entrance to the mine is at the former settlement of Stockton. The mine is operated by Solid Energy in a partnership agreement with Downer Australia. Solid Energy obtained the Stockton Coal Mining Licence (CML) in 1987 for a period of 40 years. The coal field is situated between 5 to 10 kilometres linear distance south west of Stockton. The southernmost part of the coal field is only 5km away from the historic mining town of Denniston. The elevation of the coal field varies between 500 and 1100m above sea level.
The Stockton coal field dips to the Northeast with approximatley the same dip as the Denniston Coal Field, 15km to the south. Both fields contain Bituminous Hard Coking Coal.
The extracted coal is transported from the mine to an aerial ropeway near Stockton. The coal is transported to Ngakawau using this ropeway, doing away with the dangerous railway operation that plagued the Millerton and Denniston Inclines. From Ngakawau, most of the coal is transported by rail to Lyttelton, where it is exported via ship to steel makers in Japan, India, China, South Africa and Brazil. Parcels of coal are barged from Westport to Port Kembla, New South Wales in Australia.
While the Stockton mining has created local jobs, the environmental impact has created some resistance against extending the operation to include the proposed Cypress mine at Happy Valley. This led to the formation of the Save Happy Valley Campaign (SHVC).
There are plans for two hydroelectric power stations in and around the mine. The Stockton Plateau Hydro Project instigated by Hydro Development Ltd has been granted approval and Solid Energy has applied for resource consents for their Stockton Hydro Scheme.