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N.Z. Oil & Gas Takes Control of Pike River Share Sale

New Zealand Oil & Gas Ltd. said it will manage the sale of shares in its Pike River Coal Ltd. unit after three of the miner's directors resigned.

Pike River, 61 percent-owned by New Zealand Oil & Gas, is planning to sell shares in February to help fund the NZ$144 million ($99 million) development on the nation's South Island. Shareholders in the Wellington-based oil explorer will be offered one Pike share for every eight New Zealand Oil & Gas shares held.

``To ensure these objectives are met in the most effective manner, NZOG has taken direct control of the process,'' the company said in a statement to the New Zealand stock exchange.

The Pike River mine, near Greymouth, is part-owned by Saurashtra Fuels Pvt. and India's Gujarat NRE Coke Ltd. It will become New Zealand's second-biggest export coal mine when full output of 1.3 million tons a year is reached after two years.

Former Pike River Chairman Denis Wood and directors James Ogden and Graeme Duncan resigned from the board for personal reasons, New Zealand Oil & Gas said without elaborating.

``We're not prepared to say any more than that,'' Wood said in an interview. ``I just wish the project well.''

New Zealand Oil & gas shares fell 2 cents to NZ$1.02 at 1:35 p.m. in Wellington.

Tunneling and site preparation has started at Pike River, which is scheduled to start producing low-ash and low-phosphorus coking coal late next year.

The project is proceeding well and the board is confident the share-sale timetable will be achieved, Pike Chairman Ray Meyer said in the statement.

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