14 May 2024

Gold miner wants consent after already starting work

7:31 am on 14 May 2024
Clutha River

The proposed open cast gold mine would operate along the banks of the Mata-Au Clutha River. File photo. Photo: Margaret Casey

A gold mining company is hoping to secure a consent after already beginning works on its Central Otago site.

Council consent hearings are beginning in Millers Flat today, where Hawkeswood Mining has applied to establish and operate an open cast gold mine along the banks of the Mata-Au Clutha River.

It first applied for a discretionary consent in 2022, for a two-hectare mine for a period of five years.

This was - by request of the applicant - publicly notified by the Otago Regional Council (ORC) and Central Otago District Council in 2023.

Hawkeswood Mining then paused the application to make amendments - extending the proposed mine to cover approximately 10 hectares for a period of 10 years.

The mine would operate from 7am - 7pm, Monday to Friday and 7am - 1pm on Saturdays.

There would be no work on Sundays or public holidays.

The councils determined a new application needed to be made.

"This was due to significant increases in the intensity and scale of the activity than what had been previously assessed and considered," a council decision document stated.

During the process, Hawkeswood Mining began works on the site without any consents.

As a result, it was also applying for a retrospective consent for earthworks, making internal accessways and creating a test pit.

In a Central Otago District Council document, it said these works had "exceeded the District Plan allowance by 2118m3".

Hawkeswood Mining operations manager Simon Johnstone said this was an "unfortunate oversight" by the company's survey team.

"The work that we've done so far we believed was in the district plan rules. We will endeavour to ensure that does not happen again," he said.

The company has done excavation and testing ahead of a full mining operation getting underway, Johnstone said.

The crux of what Hawkeswood Mining was seeking from the councils was consent to use the land. It was also asking the ORC for consent to take water and discharge water to land only, he said.

Johnstone said there was no risk of contaminants being discharged into water.

"Absolutely not. The operation is entirely gravity and water related so there are no contaminants on this site. The discharges are only to land, and the water is clean before we discharge it," he said.

Johnstone said the area had attracted the attention of gold miners for more than 100 years.

"The rich history here in Millers Flat of the dredging back in the early 1900s and even in the late 1800s certainly shows a bit of proof to the resource here."

He said with that history, and after thorough testing, he was confident the mine would be a profitable venture.

"We've done over 300 test drilling holes throughout the project. We have a fairly good indication of what's in the ground."

Their site also shared a boundary with the land on which the Clutha Gold Cycleway used.

According to the council, Hawkeswood Mining has proposed that the cycleway be diverted for a little over a kilometre.

It "advised that the temporary cycle trail will be formed to the same standard as the existing cycle trail," the council said.

Hawkeswood Mining said the proposed mine was expected to create up to 30 jobs and inject an estimated $5 to 7 million annually into the local community

Johnstone said if the consent hearings were successful he hoped the mine would be operational by August 1.

More than 470 submissions had been received on the application, and some of those would be heard by three independent commissioners over the next two days at Miller Flat Hall.

Central Otago District Council said it was unable to comment while the hearings were in progress.

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