Not Our Heritage to Mine Karangahake

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).

Ohinemuri River, Karangahake Gorge

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.

Karangahake Historic Area

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.

12 thoughts on “Not Our Heritage to Mine Karangahake

  1. Mining is an integral part of the heritage of the Karangahape Gorge – or are you rewriting history.
    Dame Nellie Melba came to sing at Karangahape and the miners tossed golden coins into the tin to listen to her.
    My father was born in Karangahape – so the mining there is part of my heritage two.
    What do you think paid for the development of NZ into a first world nation is a few decades?
    Frogdust?

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  2. Owen, Catherine is talking about the Karangahake gorge, not the “Karangahape” gorge.

    Maybe back in the 70s we possibly smoked a lot of dak together in the “Karanga happy” gorge! But, honestly, I don’t remember you being there.

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  3. Sorry for the typo.
    I meant Karangahake Gorge near Waihi, not K’Hape road in Auckland.

    I know a good deal about modern mining and the many different forms it now takes.
    I am not a mining engineer but there are many minerals being extracted without anyone being the wiser.
    What do you know about mining high purity silica from geothermal steam?

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  4. “There are many minerals being extracted without anyone being the wiser”.

    Oh, the irony!

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  5. Owen –
    the point being made is that novelists and story performers are the only ones with any ongoing capital from these mining ventures.

    The majority of the wealth fled the country soon after it was dug up, whether by chinese miners sending funds home, or wealthy landowners taking their cut from the miners claims on their lands.

    Have you read the Denniston Rose series of books?
    [ok, that's rhetorical, they're really chik-lit...]
    They refer to the Denniston and Stockton mines on the West Coast, which once had thriving communities of workers. Once the pit owners left, the community had gained nothing from the decades of toil there, and disbanded.
    It’s very close to where Happy Valley is to be mined by Solid Energy. (Ok, that’s coal, not gold, but the resource restraints are similar.)

    Karangahake Gorge is a similar story.

    FWIW, lol, I inherited a gold signet ring which had been passed down through my family – hallmarked in Dunedin, it is Otago red-gold.
    So I can personally vouch for the fact that not all the wealth fled, but most of it did!

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  6. “Tangata whenua and other local residents”

    those with tap root and shallow rooted Pakeha?

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  7. Why do you think that because the gold went overseas we lost the wealth (benefit).
    Trade is a magic process where you send something overseas on a ship or plane and after a while a magic boat comes back with computers and medicines and aircraft.

    Sometimes people just use their magic to print money and send that. At present for every ounce of gold we send to these magic lands we get back over $1000 US in gold or other useful products.

    Gold and kauri timber financed much of the basic infrastructure that turned NZ from a settlement into a nation in a few decades. Read James Bellich.

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  8. Hi Catherine,

    I think that economist Rod Oram wrote a very good article in the Feb 21st Sunday Start Times entitled ‘An Epoch-defining insight …. and the Govt missed it’. It was on the proposed mining in our National parks. Basically the Govts is old exploitive type economics and they have completely missed the trend in promoting newer green technologies that dont exploit our resources but use them with care and enhance them.

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  9. AS far as I know there was no proposal to explore or mine the national parks that are only about 15% of the Conservation Estate.

    Where did Rod Oram get that from?

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  10. Helen Bain puts this issue very well in the February issue of Forest & Bird magazine as she writes; ‘Schedule 4 of the Crown minerals Act identifies conservation land, which due to its high conservation values should be excluded from the possibility of being mined. Tis land includes National Parks, nature reserves and scientific reserves – land considered to core conservation land. About 40% of the conservation estate (13% of New Zealand’s land mass) is in schedule 4.’

    Its a great loss that Helen Bain was tragically drowned in a horse riding accident during the Christmas holiday break.

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  11. We must preserve our heritage otherwise our beautiful nature will become extinct.

    I appreciate the gathering of people living near the historical place and their efforts to save our beautiful nature.

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