24 May 2024

Regional Development and Resources Minister's mine visits not publicised

3:53 pm on 24 May 2024

By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News

Shane Jones

Shane Jones yesterday made unpublicised visits to Federation Mining's Snowy River gold project and Roa Mining's Rajah open cast coal mine. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Regional Development and Resources Minister Shane Jones visited two mines on the West Coast on Thursday, without revealing the visits until afterwards, then had a private lunch with mining industry representatives.

His only pre-publicised engagement on the West Coast yesterday was his speech at Blackball about the government's plans to boost mining.

The minister, who has been under fire for his close links to the mining industry, told the Westport News he couldn't care less if people think those relationships are too cosy.

Shane Jones on visits to West Coast mines

Shane Jones during the visit to one of the mines. Photo: Facebook / Shane Jones

The Westport News contacted his office on Tuesday, after reports the Coast visit included Buller. His office said the minister had a private meeting scheduled in Buller, and would talk about it afterwards, but wanted no pre-publicity for "safety" reasons given protests were already planned at Blackball.

However, Jones told the Westport News yesterday he had avoided pre-publicity because he did not want the media tagging along "like a kind of public circus".

He said he had spent about 90 minutes at Federation Mining's Snowy River gold project, near Reefton, then visited Roa Mining's Rajah open cast coal mine north of Greymouth.

Jones said he had been keen to see how Federation Mining had spent the $15 million it received from the Provincial Growth Fund when he was PGF minister.

He had met Sydney-based Federation Mining vice-president Simon Delander and ventured about a kilometre underground.

Asked whether private visits to mines reinforced the perception of his cosy relationship with the miners, Jones said he could not escape meeting industry representatives in "all contexts".

"Socially, I bump in to them at the rugby. I go and see them in their offices. I invite them to my office.

"I don't think there's much I can do, quite frankly, to overcome the perception that there is a cosy relationship between myself and both the fishing industry and the mining industry.

"But it bothers me not one iota, because in this game I've learned the hard way the best way to hide is in the open."

Shane Jones on visit to West Coast mines

Shane Jones gives the thumbs up after a trip undergound. Photo: Facebook / Shane Jones

Jones also revealed he had lunch yesterday with "a whole bunch of mining people" in Blackball.

Asked if the lunch had been recorded in his ministerial diary, he said his office had insisted everyone there was recorded.

His office provided a list of 10 people who attended the private lunch at a café.

They were: Francois Tumahai (Ngāti Waewae and Bathurst Resources), Richard Tacon, Fiona Bartier (Bathurst Resources), Alison Paul (Oceana Gold), Patrick Phelps (Minerals West Coast), Lincoln Smith (Terra Firma Mining), Phil McKinnel (Birchfield Coal Mines), Mike Meehan (New Zealand Institute for Minerals and Materials Research) Robert Brand (TiGa Minerals and Metals), Simon Delander (Federation Mining).

Two of the representatives, Delander and Bathurst Resources chief executive Richard Tacon, also attended a private dinner with Jones and Stevenson Mining Group deputy chair Barry Bragg on the West Coast in February. Jones failed to record the dinner in his ministerial diary until after Newsroom asked questions about it.

Stevenson Mining and Bathurst Resources are both seeking to use the government's proposed fast-track process for their Buller projects.

Jones yesterday defended incorrectly telling Parliament earlier this month that the Westport News supported the government's view on mining. The newspaper has never expressed a view on mining.

"You're dealing with politicians, get over it…," he said yesterday. "You're dealing with political rhetoric, and if you as an editor haven't worked that out then you've got a lot more to learn about how to do your job.

"Us politicians, we are always deploying hyperbole and rhetoric."

Jones said his comments to Parliament should be seen as "Akin to the political wind of God speaking, and let the wind blow away such remarks."

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