by Catherine Delahunty
Last Sunday we went for a walk in the park.
Some people went all the way to the Glass Earth/Newmont drilling rig high in the forest park and occupied it for a while. The rest of us with our babies and banners walked for an hour and a half up the beautiful Parikiwai Valley near Whangamata.
The gold company is making contradictory claims about this drill site which is a DOC “special area”. They have said it’s looking highly prospective and could offer the kind of pickings that have been found at Martha Hill because it’s part of the same geological area. They are also saying “there’s not much so far and nothing may come of this”. These comments are designed for two audiences. The first is designed to encourage investors that Glass Earth and Newmont are an active company which will make them lots of money. The second is the response to protests and is designed to allay any concerns while the drilling proceeds. Neither of these comments clarifies what is really going on in the southern Coromandel.
Glass Earth and Newmont want to extend the Waihi mining activity into the conservation land and the coastal areas around Whangamata. They want to drill across the region with minimal scrutiny by the local residents. The price of gold is hovering around $1500 an ounce and makes exploration and even underground mining in steep country where there are currently no roads an attractive prospect. Open-cast mining is the easiest form of mining but hard to sell. When the gold price is low open-cast is the viable option, but right now the price makes underground gold mining worthwhile.
So the risk of mining beneath Schedule 4 is a real possibility. As the people of Whangamata say, Schedule 4 was a political line that was drawn just south of Thames. It was not an ecologically logical line. We have a simple message for Newmont and their colleagues, “We love Coromandel, no more mining, stop the vandals”. Tangata whenua of Hauraki said it best of all – “No more mining north of Waihi”.