Deep below Karangahake Gorge preparations are underway to get a 120-year-old mine ready for operation once again.

New Talisman Gold Mines Operations Manager Wayne Chowles says to get the tunnel ready they will check the ceiling and install ventilation and water management systems in the weeks to come.

"Some of the timber is a bit wobbly so our primary job job now to take this out and install rock bolts and whatever else we need to to do to ensure the integrity of the tunnel," Mr Chowles says.

New Talisman Gold Mines, formerly known as Heritage Gold, plans to remove 650 tonnes of ore a month for the next two years.


The material will be tested for traces of silver and gold - in a bid to find locations along the tunnel that could be mined in the future.

New Talisman chief executive Matthew Hill says it has been a long time coming - they have been working on getting the mine back into production since the late 90's.

"We're very excited to bring this very productive mine back online. I guess all being if the data we collect in the next little while proves up we certainly hope to take it back into production," Mr Hill says.

But - in the community there is concern about the plan.

The Karangahake Gorge is zoned as conservation land but that doesn't exclude the bush from being mined. The application to do so would have to be made under the Crown Minerals Act and approved by the Minister of Conservation.

Chairman of Protect Karangahake lobby group, Duncan Shearer says it is a political matter for locals in the upcoming election.

Fellow committee member Lucy Aitkinread agrees and says the area must be fully protected for her children's generation.

"Mining on conservation land is basically like a government approved land grab from the people of New Zealand. This is land that has been promised to New Zealanders and the government are taking portions of it, slicing bits of it away and then selling it off for profit, basically a state-approved land grab," she says.


Mining opponents say the land and water has only just restored itself to a natural state.

They're concerned the environment and water aquifers - which supply the area - could be compromised again if mining progressed.

Michael O'Donnell has lived in the area for over forty years and says the area is valued for a variety of reasons including its cultural connections, beauty and crisp water.

Mr O'Donnell says drilling in the mines poses a risk for the water supplies with possible acidic leachate from the mountain finding it's way into the water when the mountain is disturbed.

"We don't know what they're opening up there we know that mountain is full of acid leachate because the rock walls have been exposed to oxygen and water and that's when the acid formation begins and releases the toxicity of heavy metals, we have no guarantee that that's not going to happen," Mr O'Donnell says.

He says mining would jeopardise the area for the "the legacy of our children".


But New Talisman Mining says the impacts above ground will be minimal because all the work is happening underground and barriers will protect water ponds and the use of water outputs is unnecessary because they operate in a closed loop system.

"We are not processing anything at the site, there will be no tailings dam here, we are not using chemicals whatsoever for the extraction methods and we're transferring it offsite for safe processing," Mr Hill says.

Those who object to mining and exploration activities in the Karangahake Gorge say they will continue the fight to get the operation shut down.

"We don't see the future in this area being connected to the mining, we see it being connected to tourism and we see that the value of the rail trail is where our future lies, not in industrialised mining in a DOC estate.

"And all of the community around here realise that if this prospecting gets a chance in, if it (New Talisman Gold Mine) gets to put a fence up on the portal pad and put some building in, then that's just the toehold they need.

"So we want to stop them now, while they're still only talking and preventing anything from further happening," Mr Shearer says.


But - there is nothing they can do to stop the testing as New Talisman Gold Mine have legal consents to extract ore for sampling.

Once the Level 8 site is secured - porta coms and equipment will be taken to the mine so the 2.5 million dollar project can get underway.

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