Residents hit out at mine plans

By John Cousins

Waihi residents desperate to escape the vibrations and noise of gold mining have been dealt a blow by Newmont Gold's application to carry out underground exploration mining below the massive Martha open cast pit.

A hostile community reaction to the American company's application was unleashed at yesterday's Environment Court hearing in Waihi.

Objectors fear the scheduled 2017 closure of the Martha Mine will go the way of previous deadlines, in which the company successfully applied to extend mining operations.

The fourth and final day of the hearing saw objectors challenge the expert witnesses called by the Hauraki District Council and Newmont Gold.

The engineering and acoustic evidence was that the impact of the exploration mining would be well within the noise and vibration rules controlling the existing mining licence.

But this was of little comfort to Chris Hallums, whose home at 27 Moresby Ave was 130 metres from the rim of the Martha pit.

Mr Hallums said that when the mine did not close in 2007 and the eastern open cast expansion went ahead, it led to "great stress caused by unacceptable noise limits emanating from the pit".

He said the four months between November last year and February this year were "horrific" because of the prevailing northerly and nor'easterly winds.

Mr Hallums said the exploration project would significantly increase the negative impact of noise and vibration levels because a 24/7 underground mining operation was proposed, with ore stockpiled at night in the bottom of the pit before it was brought to the surface in daylight.

He said the noise limits in the existing mining licence gave a distorted view of the actual noise perceived at his property because they were set for zero wind conditions.

Mr Hallums said most of the expert scientific evidence were predictions and he had no confidence that he would be anything other than negatively impacted by the exploration mining in terms of health and wellbeing.

"I feel we have become prisoners of the process.

"I believe my options to sell have been, and will be, drastically compromised by the MEP [Martha Exploration Project]."

Mr Hallums said that on one occasion it took seven hours for the noise to drop to anywhere near an acceptable level.

"Newmont does what it can, but it is an industrial operation in the middle of a residential area."

Buller St resident Jean Anderson described her "negative equity" situation arising from the impact of mining on the value of her house, which she had little hope would ever find a buyer.

Another witness, Clare Mewse, who researched 12 months of noise complaints, highlighted the impact of vibrations from mine blasts that were below a velocity of 2mm per second.

She was responding to Newmont saying that three-quarters of its underground exploration blasting would be up to 2mm per second.

The complaints register relating to blasts under 2mm per second included comments like "very scared", "shook flue and fireplace", "shook whole house", "glasses shook - big", "rocked heavy mirror", "awful rattling and shaking - frightening", "really shook house".

Ms Mewse's analysis produced an additional 185 complaints.

The court reserved its decision.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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