Near Stockton in the Buller Coalfield, high-rank coal occurs in a seam about 30 metres thick. It is covered by up to 50 metres of hard sandstone. This needs to be stripped away by heavy earth-moving machinery before the coal can be mined.
This seam was originally worked by underground mining. At best only 3 to 4 metres of coal can be recovered by underground mining, so the rest was left in the ground. The entire thickness of the coal seam can now be mined by modern opencast methods.
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Photograph by Simon Nathan
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