by Catherine Delahunty
The Tui Mine was abandoned in the 1970s on the side of Mt Te Aroha. It was a small copper and gold mine which left an ugly legacy. The mine’s toxic waste dump was unstable and cracking and the water downstream of the underground mine workings were poisoned by the heavy metals leaching from the mine tunnels.
Tui has been at the top of a list of contaminated sites for many years, partially due to the real risk of the collapse of the waste dump onto the community below. Finally after many years of campaigning and lobbying, the clean-up process for this ‘orphan’ toxic site was initiated.
Over the last three years, the Green Party has worked with the Government to ensure funding to stabilise the site and at least partially neutralise the underground toxic leachate with lime.
Last week I attended an event marking the end of the clean-up. On the mountain I joined tangata whenua Ngāti Tumutumu and Ngāti Hako, people from the Hauraki iwi, local and regional authorities, the contractors, and local residents for this celebration of progress. The site has been hugely improved through the stabilisation and processing of the tailings waste into a solid mix and the work on the mine water quality. This cost central and local government $21 million.
On-going monitoring and re-application of lime to the contaminated water will continue to be important and the Greens will stay actively involved with the regional council as they carry out this work. The iwi are developing a cultural monitoring plan to continue the healing of the mountain, including work to restore the mauri (life force) of the affected waterways.
Overall, it was a very positive achievement and good to work with two Ministers for the Environment to get this progress. The lessons we can learn from Tui are simple.
- Don’t let foreign miners run away from their pollution.
- Don’t mine our mountains for metals that could otherwise be mined from scrap metal yards and used cell phones.
- Respect tangata whenua when they tell us not to damage their sacred places.
- Above all else love and protect our maunga and our water!