8 May 2019

Govt gold mine decision calls future and jobs into question, company says

2:59 pm on 8 May 2019

Doubts are being raised about the future of mining in Coromandel after the Overseas Investment Office declined a mining company's bid to buy land for expansion.

The goldmine in Waihi is changing hands from Newmont to NZ company Oceanagold.

Martha's mine in Waihi is operated by OceanaGold. Photo: 123RF

The Australia-based company OceanaGold applied to buy farmland in Waihi next to its gold mine so it could dump mine tailings.

The purchase needed the approval of two ministers, and while Associate Finance Minister David Clark approved the plan, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage did not, meaning the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) was forced to decline the application.

OceanaGold's senior community advisor Kit Wilson said the decision risked its future in the North Island region.

"There's limited capacity for expansion which therefore means that jobs would have to be called into question after 2028," Mr Wilson said.

"At the present time we have got plenty to keep us busy for the next 10 years, but certainly we will have to look at where to from here."

Mr Wilson said the company was considering a judicial review of the decision.

Chief executive of the minerals industry organisation Straterra, Chris Baker, said the declined application put the economy at risk too.

"Export revenue in the order of $200 million to $300m per year ... is at stake," Mr Baker said.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage did not approve OceanaGold's purchase of farmland next to the Waihi mine. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

He said Minister Sage's decision would scare off other investors.

"[Investors] will look at this decision and consider that the sovereign risk they face in investing in New Zealand has changed for the worse, significantly."

Mr Baker said other mining companies operating here were "alarmed" by the decision.

Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga said the decision showed a blatant disregard for the 360 Waihi mine workers and their families.

"For something so critical to the economic well-being of this district to be tossed out on a political whim like this is completely unpalatable to me."

Ms Sage said she and Mr Clark had different views on what was substantial and identifiable benefits of the land purchase, which is what the law required them to agree on.

She said she did not believe using productive farmland to establish a long-term tailing reservoir of mining waste would lead to such benefits.