by Catherine Delahunty
On Friday last I hosted a meeting about the effects of mining at the Karangahake Hall near Paeroa. The hall is close to a major historical and recreational area including many artefacts and remnants from the early gold mining days. It is also close to the newest gold mining permit issued for the Coromandel area.
The Karangahake Gorge, walkways and reserves are not part of the protected areas in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act but this is a beautiful area for walking and appreciating the now softened ravages of past mining. The Gorge itself is a narrow winding cut between steep forested hills with the Ohinemuri River snaking down from Waihi to Tikapa Moana (the Hauraki Gulf).
In the old gold mining days great slugs of cyanide laden mine waste would come lurching down the river from Waihi with a visible mass of desperate eels swimming ahead of it trying to get to fresh water. Today the river looks healthy enough but it remains vulnerable to any leaching from the toxic mine tailings from the failed Coeur d’Alene mine at Waitekauri and the enormous waste dump at Baxter’s Rd, Waihi.
But the latest mining threat comes from Australian mining company “Heritage” who have a permit to re-open the Talisman Mine at Karangahake. They have the mining permit but are still seeking a joint venture partner from China and have not yet applied for RMA consents to undertake mining activity.
Tangata whenua and other local residents at the meeting expressed strong opposition to the latest proposal. We sat talking in the old hall with the legendary wooden dance floor and the murals of the “good old days”. The only wealth left from the past gold mining is the stories and songs and old brick remnants. This heritage draws people to the Karangahake to reflect on a gold rush that stripped the land and polluted the water. The Karangahake people are not convinced by the spin doctors of today with their “surgical mining” from their “boutique mines”. Once bitten, twice shy.