Mine slams doomsayer theories

By Lindy Laird

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Newmont Waihi Gold says that if the company ever did mine gold at Puhipuhi, locals could safely drink water from the site.

The company's external affairs manager, Sefton Darby, has suggested "the purveyors of the toxic-doom-and-gloom theory of mining at least do us the service of coming to Waihi and drinking the water that we discharge from our site here".

Mr Darby said the company's waste water at Waihi was of a standard every industry and local government in New Zealand should aspire to.

Rumours about the company's activity at Puhipuhi were being fuelled by ignorance or a deliberate attempt by the anti-mining faction "to replace facts and rational debate with emotion and fear", he said.

He reiterated that Newmont has never itself done nor commissioned another company to drill at Puhipuhi.

"I wish to confirm that news of Newmont mining rigs moving into Puhipuhi under cover of darkness are just that - rumours."

At some stage in the future, locals might see two geologists roaming around on foot in the daytime, Mr Darby said.

"Exploration in places such as Puhipuhi begins with researching historical records, airborne surveys, consultation, mapping and then soil sampling, and we are still in the very early stage of that process.

"When the next step comes you can expect to see one or two geologists in some particularly dangerous hiking boots operating during daylight hours - not drill rigs at night."

Getting to the stage of extracting minerals from anywhere was lengthy and involved, and it was highly unlikely production would start at Puhipuhi in the next 10 years, if ever, Mr Darby said.

"There seems to be a great deal of unsubstantiated speculation being engaged in by opponents of mining who seem to be suggesting an imminent arrival of full-scale mining in Northland tomorrow."

He also refuted a claim repeated in a Northern Advocate article that mercury was a particular issue at Puhipuhi.

Mercury appeared at very different levels in an epithermal system from where gold occurred, he said.

Meanwhile, on the community front, plans are under way to form an action group comprising residents, iwi representatives and conservationists concerned at a lack of communication from the mining interests - including Newmont, which has a licence to explore over 6000 hectares at Puhipuhi, and Northland local government agencies.

People at a packed public meeting at Whakapara Community Hall were told by Mine Watch Northland-coalition members that Northland's local governments were failing in their duty to ratepayers with their seemingly at-all-costs invitation to minerals companies to explore and exploit the region.

As well as an alleged lack of consultative processes, among topics aired was the tax that toxic-based gold mining would have on the region's natural resources and infrastructure.

The keyhole extraction method - as opposed to Newmont's huge, open cast Martha Mine at Waihi - would break into and create a chain of contamination through the underground aquifers common in epithermal geology, and the mining itself would require as much electricity and cement as Northland could produce, Far North Forest and Bird chairman Dean Baigent-Mercer said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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