Environmental group 'incredibly disappointed' about mining permit

4:33 pm on 7 August 2020

An environmental group said a permit granted this week to a mining company in the south Coromandel showed the government had failed its promise there would be no new mines on Department of Conservation (DOC) land.

Catherine Delahunty.

Catherine Delahunty. Photo: SUPPLIED

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment has this week granted the permit to OceanaGold for its operations near Whangamatā.

An MBIE spokesperson said the permit only granted the rights to mine for minerals, and did not cover any environmental impact of the planned mining or access to Crown or privately owned land.

"These aspects of a mining operation are considered under other legislation and further consents are required before any mining takes place."

Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki said the Minister of Conservation could deny access to the area or the resource consents to mine could fail in court, but the government had betrayed the public by allowing MBIE to grant the 40 year mining permit.

Chair Catherine Delahunty said the promise of no new mines on DOC land was made in a speech from the throne in 2017.

"Instead, we've basically got MBIE facilitating a mining permit under conservation land where one of the rarest frogs in the world has its habitat.

"It's such a destructive, dinosaur industry that should not be allowed on or under DOC land where blasting will have major effects."

Delahunty said the public had indicated it wanted a green-led recovery from Covid-19.

"This is just the opposite and we're incredibly disappointed that the government has failed to honour its promise to protect DOC land."

A spokesperson for the Conservation Minister said the permit granted was for underground mining only, and access rights were yet to be granted.

OceanaGold said the permit did not allow construction of a mine, but evaluation only.

Senior communications advisor Kit Wilson said the company had for the past 15 years been conducting an exploration programme at Wharekirauponga in the Coromandel Forest Park.

It applied for a mining permit for Wharekirauponga in May last year, and the permit received now allowed it to continue studying and evaluating a potential underground mine at Wharekirauponga.

"It does not allow us to construct a mine. That will require extensive consultation and a detailed RMA application," Wilson said.

He said there was still a lot of technical, social, cultural and environmental studies to be done before it could be determined if mining was possible under conservation land, while supporting the environmental, social, cultural and recreational values of the region.

"Any future applications to develop a mine would involve an extensive process of consultation and design to ensure the mine is developed responsibly.

"Our planning will include modern underground mining methods, with no processing or tailing storage facilities on conservation land and with minimal surface expression, such as ventilation shafts."

Wilson said, in essence, the company had ruled out mining on the surface due to location and nature of the conservation land.

Any mine would enter from outside conservation land and tunnel underground to the minerals, with all ore processing using existing facilities at Waihi.

Delahunty said Wharekirauponga was DOC recreation land currently closed to the public because of the drilling over recent years.

"It's a very beautiful, popular area and although they'd be tunnelling in from outside the DOC land it's going to have effects, particularly on the high water table and on the production of more toxic waste, but also nobody knows what effect it will have on rare species - this has not been allowed before."

She said they did not want to see investment in "this kind of toxic industry" underneath DOC estate.

"It's not what the land was set aside for and it's not what the public thinks should happen under DOC land, or anywhere near it.

"It's an industrialisation of the conservation estate."

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