Coal was probably first mined in New Zealand in the 1830’s at Shag Point in Otago where it was broken from beach outcrops by sailors for fuel for try pots. The first recorded coal mine was at Saddle Hill near Dunedin.
In 1874 legislation gave the Governor of New Zealand the power to proclaim mining districts and appoint officers to inspect mining operations. Three years later legislation was passed enabling the Governor to issue mining licences and Boards were set up to oversee mining operations at a district level.
By the early 1890’s Mining Districts could issue their own licences and appoint their own Inspectors of Mines to ensure that mines were being run legally. The Government set up a Mines Department, which was expanded to cover the mineral and coal mining industries.
In 1901 the Coal Mines Amendment Act allowed the State to open and work coal mines and to set aside any Crown land which might be required for coal mining. State Coal Mines ran for many years as a Government trading enterprise until 1987. In 1987 State owned enterprises were established and Coal Corporation of New Zealand was incorporated as a private company. It purchased a large part of the business of State Coal Mines. In 1996 Coalcorp, as it had become, was rebranded Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd. Coalcorp and Solid Energy inherited many of the liabilities and assets of State Coal Mines. As well as operating existing mines the company is responsible for the rehabilitation of a number of former mine sites across the country.