Only hours after Evolution Mining announced it was starting explorative drilling for gold at Puhipuhi, MineWatch Northland had organised protest action.

The group has called for people to bring spades to a protest at Puhipuhi on Saturday "to help clean up Evolution Mining's Toxic Mess in the Making". Spokesman Tim Howard said a meeting today would determine what that and further action might entail.

Evolution Mining has completed geological surveys and other pre-drilling work at the site and its minerals permit timeframe requires the company start on the explorative stage.

Jackie Hobbins, senior geologist and New Zealand project manager for the Australian company, said that if an economic amount of gold was found mining could not start for at least five years.


Even then, it would depend on the results of environmental, economic and engineering feasibility studies, extensive consultation and having relevant permits and consents, Dr Hobbins said.

Plans to mine for gold, silver and other minerals known to be deep in the Puhipuhi hills, 30km north of Whangarei, have not been welcomed by locals and environmental groups because of the high level of mercury in the land. Mercury mining was carried out there until the 1960s, with documented adverse health and ecological effects.

The hills' extensive aquifer system, waterways and run-off drains into the Bay of Islands, Whangaruru Harbour and the Hikurangi Swamp which feeds downstream into the Kaipara Harbour.