Dismay at 24-hour mining licence

By John Cousins

A court decision to allow exploratory underground mining for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, into the side of Waihi's Martha Mine has been greeted with dismay by Waihi residents who campaigned against the project.

Newmont Gold wants to mine the untapped ore within the part of the licence area covered by the Martha Mine - the area that lay outside the funnel-shaped open cast workings.

Distressed Residents Action Team (Drat) spokeswoman Collette Spalding was disappointed that the Environment Court did not impose restrictions on when the mining could take place.

The only partial protection was that the exploration project must be completed by June 7, 2017 - nearly four-and-a-half years away.

"Even the current mining consent is offensive to neighbours. At least we have the satisfaction now of knowing that open-cast mining will be all over by 9pm."

What was acceptable to the gold mine and the Hauraki District Council was not acceptable to the people who felt the disturbances from blasting, she said.

"The court should have at least restricted the hours, but instead they got 24/7."

She did not think that the people who led the Environment Court action had the energy to lodge an appeal to a higher court, particularly now that another fight was looming up over Newmont Gold's application to mine under 46 privately-owned residential properties in Waihi East - the Correnso project.

The public hearing for that application was due to commence on December 3.

Ms Spalding said underground mining conjured up insecurities in people's minds when it came to living in Waihi, and deciding whether it was a good investment.

Many people had vivid memories of the house that fell into a big hole when old underground workings subsided.

About 80 householders had been genuinely impacted by Newmont mining operations, and now the company was knocking on 500 doors to explain that the Correnso mining licence would cover their area even though the company was not planning to mine underneath all that area.

Green Party mining spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said it was unlikely the decision would be appealed. "It is always going to be a tough case because it was a variation to an existing licence and it was very hard to get what you need out of it."

The other factor was that local people represented themselves and did not have the money to hire expert testimony to back the case.

"Many people that ring me are feeling pretty trapped and it was my duty to stand up for them ... in terms of this case, we gave it our best shot," the Coromandel-based MP said.

Another resident whose home was only 125m from the western side of Martha Mine, Chris Hallums, said he was really disappointed by the court's decision.

The exploration project would more than likely lead to full-scale mining, but at least that would require a new resource consent application, he said.

The Hallums have had their house on the market for nearly a year and during that time have had only one person come to look at the property.

"The mine was so noisy that they sent me an email saying they preferred a house in a quieter street."

Newmont Gold general manager Glen Grindlay said that while it was heartening to have the project recommended to the Minister of Energy and Resources, he was aware that the company still had work to do in the local community.

"We know that there are some members of the community who are still unhappy with the Martha Exploration Project, and we would like to continue to work with them.

"Also, the court has clearly pointed out that we did not do all we could to address the concerns of iwi, and we have taken this advice on board."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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