On Monday I attended the hearings in Waihi for a new mine underneath a residential area. This proposal known as Correnso will immediately affect 30 houses but as residents have told me effects can ripple in unexpected directions.
I attended the hearings to hear the mining company Newmont Gold employees submitting that the Mine would be great for Waihi. No surprises there as they understandably want to keep their jobs. Their vulnerability to the gold price and the changing plans of multinationals is quite striking; they know who calls the shots in their town. A number of them said that mining might have effects on their residence, but of course from their point of view it is worth it.
The other side of the story is continuing today when three local residents groups and a number of individual residents are appearing before the hearings commissioners. These people will be talking about the threats to their quality of life. The vibration from blasting underneath their homes can cause property damage and affect their mental and physical health. Property values are also at risk and despite various forums and programmes that are being set up. An independent forum is encouraging Newmont to buy out home owners or top up house sales, but so far Newmont gets to decide which houses they will buy and what tops ups they will pay. Newmont also has complete discretion about paying compensation for loss of amenity values for people who are not trying to sell up. The uncertainty around compensation is reason for considerable anxiety for residents.
The stories of affected residents and those potentially affected by the new mine are important because most people do not face the effects and risks of a huge industrial gold mine being dug underneath their houses. Their concerns should not be minimised and nor should their vulnerability. It takes great strength to challenge the status quo ethos in a company dominated town. It takes courage to say that you don’t believe gold mining is the only option for the future of Waihi.
Truth is, there are other options. The Coromandel makes $350 million a years from visitors and more than a $100,000 a year from seafood products. The historical tourism, outdoor recreation and local arts culture can enhance the Waihi area. We don’t literally need to undermine residents to have a flourishing economy.