An action group is drilling for support after learning a huge Western Australian mining company has bought the rights to explore 6116 hectares in Northland's Puhipuhi hills.
Gold and silver exploration company De Grey Mining has paid $1.27 million (A$1 million) for a 100 per cent interest in the Puhipuhi project from Waihi Gold Company. A statement from De Grey said it was "ready to hit the exploration trail running".
Concerns about the company's gold and silver rush will be aired at a public meeting at Whakapara next Thursday, organised by Puhipuhi Mining Action Group (P-MAG).
The meeting will also offer advice on making submissions to Northland Regional Council's Regional Policy Statement, convenor Jenny Kirk said.
Concerns already raised by the Mine Watch Northland coalition include health risks from mining the mercury laden-rock and complex underground water and stream system.
De Grey said the Government's support, "low risk" country and good existing infrastructure made the Puhipuhi acquisition an excellent addition to the company's portfolio.
"Puhipuhi is an excellent advanced greenfields epithermal system with defined and untested drill targets," De Grey executive chairman Peter Batten said.
Based on geophysic and geochemistry surveys there are "nine high-priority, drill-ready target areas at Puhipuhi."
The transaction price implies a value of $6744.76 per acre. Newmont Mining Corporation, which owns Waihi Gold, retains a 2 per cent net smelter royalty on minerals taken from the area, 30km north of Whangarei.
The licence transfer comes at the same time as locals have again seen drilling equipment being trucked into area at night, Ms Kirk said.
In August, locals said deep diagonal drilling had taken place under land where there was no access arrangement. Newmont denied any involvement.
De Grey has itself completed or has the rights to an existing 50 drill holes, 18 of which are less than 100 metres long, 28 up to 200m and four longer than 200m.
The company said despite the area's known potential to host a fissure vein system, that shallow drilling had not yet reached where gold and silver was expected to occur.
Puhipuhi has been held under exploration permit 51985 since 2009. It has five years to run with a five-year option. The scale is many times bigger than intermittent mercury quarrying and mining up until 1980s.