by Catherine Delahunty
On Monday June 25th I spoke at a Green public meeting which we organised to raise awareness with residents of Te Puke and Papamoa about the mining activities in their region. Glass Earth Gold Ltd has an exploration permit to drill in pine forest on private land, in an area of previous mine workings called Muirs Reef. This area was mined for gold in the 1920’s and there were attempts to re-open it in the 1960s and 1980s. On the surface Muirs Reef looks like a reasonably safe place to develop gold mining (the need for this is debatable), given that it’s on private farmland and the three rivers near the site appear to be well downstream. However the meeting revealed many issues of huge concern to locals.
Waitaha kaumatua and other residents at the meeting told us that the mine had always been a problem to develop because of the uncontrollable quantities of groundwater in the area. They said that a multitude of streams feed through this area into the local rivers and that it hadn’t been possible to control this water in the past. A local community board member told us that the water supply for local towns, including the expansion of the Papamoa coastal area, depends on clean water from this area for water supply. The tangata whenua and Forest and Bird Society representatives spoke movingly about the biodiversity of the local streams including the presence of the threatened Hochstetters frog.
I added the information that if Glass Earth Gold sought a mining permit they would either have to truck the ore body to Waihi via Tauranga or build an expensive processing plant on site. I urged the community to start asking questions about what kind of mining was on the company’s agenda. And where would the waste go? Often underground mines are backfilled with processed waste material but if the processing is in Waihi then that would hardly be economic. Waihi has enough challenges with their tailings dump spreading without any additions.
One local resident had checked out the site and found that Glass Earth Gold had already drilled into groundwater without a consent. The Regional Council, who were unaware of the drilling, have stopped the project until there is a consent. This shows bad practice from the outset.
Just to add to the concerns about Glass Earth Gold, I have discovered that a company called Pacific Offshore have a permit to drill up to 50 holes in the seabed for gold, silver and illeminate (titanium oxide) in a 2000 hectare block of seabed between the Waihi to Tauranga coast and Tuhua (Mayor Island).
Many people who attended the meeting were angry they knew so little about the mining happening in their area. The Green Party was happy to facilitate a meeting to help keep people informed and share information that should be readily available to all. As a positive step forward, people at the meeting decided to set up an action group to monitor mining developments in their area.