Evolution Mining has shut down its controversial search for gold and silver at Puhipuhi, Northland.

The Australian minerals company's departure has been met with celebration by local hapu and other groups which strongly opposed the exploration and possible subsequent mining at the head of Northland's largest water catchment.

That catchment includes the Puhipuhi and neighbouring aquifer and streams, the former Hikurangi Swamp, and Wairua and Northern Wairoa Rivers which flow into the Kaipara Harbour.

Evolution told the Northern Advocate it had not found enough precious metal to "determine whether an economic resource is present".

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"We're certainly taking this as our victory," said Allan Halliday, from local hapu Ngati Hau's Resource Management Unit.

"We're elated that they're gone, and if they come back they'll have another fight on their hands."

Evolution's senior geologist Jackie Hobbins said that rather than commit to considerable extra expenditure to assess the potential resource, the company planned no further exploration "in the immediate future".

A coalition of groups, including Minewatch Northland, Puhipuhi Mining Action and Ngati Hau Action Group comprising Kaumatua/Kuia Committee and resource management unit, kept up a high profile protest before and during Evolution Mining's exploratory programme.

But while the company's long-signalled arrival to drill at the site in June last year was met with roadblocks, picket lines and headlines, its quiet retreat went relatively unnoticed.

Locals were aware that, with sample collecting completed, the drilling rigs were withdrawn in December. A handful of workers remained to finish capping drill holes and other remedial work.

Watchdogs believed the lack of activity was just a pause while assessments were done.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesman confirmed Evolution has filed a report with the Department of Petroleum and Minerals and met its obligations for permit 51985.

Evolution Mining owns three permits in Northland, two at Puhipuhi and the third acquired at the Te Mata block near Kaeo last year.

The company did not comment specifically on those permits, but said it was "likely to focus its activities on other exploration projects for the time being".

Puhipuhi Mining Action Group co-ordinator Jenny Kirk said Evolution's departure was "great news".

"It gives us all a big breathing space before any other miners, or Evolution, returns," she said.

"But we still need to keep alert as obviously there may be interest in the future when the economy picks up."

Minewatch Northland spokesman Tim Howard said he believed widespread public opposition to Evolution's plans played a major role in the company not pursuing the site.

"Let's celebrate this. It's a sign that when we act together we can achieve things.

"Now we don't have to live with the risk to environment caused by mining at Puhipuhi, but the Northland Regional Council, local authorities, the Government, these are the people who must also protect the environment on our behalf."