Anti-mining groups are doing their own groundwork following Evolution Mining's start of explorative drilling for gold and silver at Puhipuhi.
Within hours of the Australian minerals company announcing on Wednesday that drilling was to start, MineWatch Northland made a call to arms. Action Co-ordination Group (ACG) - comprising Kaumatua Kuia Ngati Hau, Ngati Hau Anti Mining Group, Ngati Hau Resource Management Group and MineWatch - is urging people to meet at Whakapara Marae for a hikoi to Puhipuhi tomorrow , and bring spades "to help 'clean up' Evolution Mining's toxic mess in the making!"
Spokesman Tim Howard said it is the first of a series of action. He described Evolution bringing in drilling equipment earlier this week, in a convoy supported by security personnel, as "undercover night activity".
"While this was not a surprise, it has been the opportunity for tangata whenua and community opponents to this toxic mining venture to bring months of preparation into action," Mr Howard said.
Benjamin Pittman, for Kaumatua Kuia Ngati Hau, said in allowing Evolution its exploration permit the Government had ignored the opposition by Ngati Hau and all other concerns, "endlessly expressed".
"But the fight has barely begun," Dr Pittman said.
Jenny Kirk, co-ordinator for Puhipuhi Mining Action Group, said the group had been expecting drilling to start any day.
"As an interested person from the local community, I would like to know how Evolution expects to avoid disturbing the mercury. We would all like to know this," Ms Kirk said.
"Could Evolution explain the procedure for avoiding the mercury, please?"
The drilling is required within a certain timeframe to keep Evolution's permit alive, and follows low-impact geophysical surveys carried out late last year. Even if the exploration struck gold, it did not necessarily mean mining would follow, the company said.
Senior geologist and New Zealand project manager Jackie Hobbins said, if economic gold deposits were found, mining would still be at least five years away. It would also depend on environmental, economic and engineering feasibility studies, extensive consultation and relevant permits and consents being obtained, Dr Hobbins said.
Up to 10 boreholes, about 100mm diameter to depths of up to 600m, will be drilled in this latest stage of the mining plan over four weeks. The holes will be plugged and grouted to protect aquifers in accordance with the New Zealand Drilling Environmental Standard, and comply with all central and local government requirements, Dr Hobbins said.