Controversial Government plans are in the works to revive coal mining on the West Coast, with 1 NEWS confirming proposals for open-cast mines on the massive Buller Plateau.
That would see new pits at Whareatea West and Deep Creek.
"There is very significant economic value in the Buller Plateau from a coal mining perspective," said Simon Bridges, Economic Development Minister.
To appease environmentalists, some areas would be protected.
But Forest and Bird says mines will threaten native species like kiwi, gecko and fern bird.
"Open cast coal mining is effectively complete destruction of what exists on the surface," said Kevin Hague of the conservation group.
In an unusual move, ministers have asked the Business ministry and Department of Conservation officials to draw up the plans together.
Those officials reported back late last year, saying more mining could bring more than 500 jobs to the area and give the Crown almost $1 billion a year in royalties and taxes.
"We really try, I suppose, to understand the trade-offs better between the economic value - which does change depending on the coal price - and that very strong conservation value," Mr Bridges said.
The Government acknowledges the plan is controversial.
"I think it's an ongoing discussion, albeit one where we don't under estimate the difficulties with, and I don't think we are particularly close to resolving it in the next matter of weeks," the minister said.
In the meantime, Mr Bridges will soon launch an economic development action plan for the West Coast.