Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Mayor hopes Waihi mine row won't go to court

The Newmont Waihi gold mine. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Newmont Waihi gold mine. Photo / Richard Robinson

Hauraki's Mayor is hoping a looming row over a Waihi mining plan can be resolved before it gets to the Environment Court.

The approval of a licence variation allowing Newmont Waihi Gold to press ahead with an underground exploration of its Martha Mine is being opposed in the court by a group of residents.

The company was given approval this year to tunnel beneath the western part of the Martha pit, now about 260m deep, in a project that could cost $55 million.

Seventeen objectors - among them the local Grey Power association and Greens MP Catherine Delahunty - lodged protests with the court, raising worries, including dust, noise, blast-induced vibration, consultation and effect on property values.

The objectors have been told many of their concerns were already covered under the company's existing resource consent and could not be revisited in the court.

But Colleen Spalding, fighting the variation on behalf of Waihi's Distressed Residents Action Team, felt the group still had a strong case.

"Someone like myself could argue that if there's noise at night, that disturbs my sleep and I'm not going to be able to attend to my job during the day as well as I could have," she said.

"We're not going to play too much into the financial side of it but definitely on the social side of it. We know how badly it's already affected people in our community, to the point where some have had to withdraw their objections because their health suffered so badly.

"We believe we've got some genuine concerns and we hope the courts will be able to understand where we are coming from and will make some decisions that will make it a whole lot more bearable for the neighbours."

But Hauraki Mayor John Tregidga, whose council is a respondent alongside Waikato Regional Council and Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley, hoped it was not too late to find resolution before the parties meet in court.

"My wish would definitely be for parties to try to resolve their concerns, prior to going to a full court hearing because there will be significant costs for the council," he said.

"The difficulty I have is that the ratepayers of the Hauraki district will have to pay for the cost of defending what really was the minister's decision, even though council made it on his behalf."

He hoped the concerns could be narrowed down to important core issues, making the matter easier to address.

Newmont Waihi Gold's Martha project is separate to its Correnso proposal, a large underground mine that would directly affect almost 50 homes, but both are part of a single programme which could reap $1 billion.

A company spokeswoman yesterday said a resource consent application for Correnso was expected to be lodged by the end of the month.

ON THE SURFACE

* A variation to Newmont Waihi Gold's mining licence, approved by the Government and local authorities, would allow the company to mine below its open Martha pit.

* A 5m tunnel would be bored into the pit wall and zig-zag down for about 2.6km, ending about 20m below the bottom of the pit.

* If it was found gold and silver could be commercially mined, the life of the pit could be extended beyond 2014, when mining is due to end.

* The project will not tunnel under any residential property and less waste rock and ore would be moved during its two- year life than in one month of open pit mining.

- NZ Herald

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