Industry History: Waikato

In the North Island the most important coal mining centre is Huntly, where mines have worked more or less continuously since the 1860s. The Rotowaro coal field, 10 km west of Huntly township, is historically the most important in the North Island.

It was first mined in 1915 after a branch railway to the area, including a bridge over the Waikato River, was completed. In 1942 State Coal Mines started production at Kimihia opencast mine. As private owners began abandoning Waikato mines after World War II the Government stepped in, buying the mines to maintain employment and mining skills. By 1950 State Coal was the largest coal miner in New Zealand.

Rotowaro and Weavers Opencast Mines were opened in 1958 and in 1978 State Coal began production at Huntly East and West Underground Mines. Weavers ceased production in 1993. Mining was suspended at Huntly West in 2001, leaving Solid Energy the Rotowaro Opencast Mine — currently operated under contract by New Zealand company, Stevenson Mining Limited — and Huntly East underground mine.