Iwi opposes gold mine proposal at historic Marlborough mining town
A new gold mine in Marlborough faces backlash from iwi who claim it could damage the environment and their cultural history.
Ngati Kuia has kaitiaki over the Canvastown area where mining company Elect Mining wants to set up a new operation on 120 hectares of land.
Ngati Kuia chairman Waihaere Mason said there were four pa sites in and around the mine site, either side of State Highway 6 in Canvastown, 50 kilometres northwest of Blenheim.
"Taonga associated to those sites could be damaged when unearthed during the mining process," he said.
"We are fearful of the effect that this proposed mining activity will have on our homelands."
Elect Mining is seeking resource consent for the mine from the Marlborough District Council.
Director Timothy Madden said the proposed operation would have significant economic benefits for the area, and the company had plans to mitigate any environmental effects.
Exploratory drilling revealed rich concentrations of alluvial gold at the site, with the company estimating there was around 3000 kilograms of the precious metal waiting to be extracted.
The valley was the site of a previous gold rush in 1864, which gave birth to the small Marlborough town.
However, Mason said the location of the mine, on privately-owned farmland, was subject to flooding, which could lead to runoff getting into adjacent waterways.
The Wakamarina River, or Whakamarino, and the Pelorus River, or Te Hoiere, both ran alongside the proposed mining site.
"Sedimentation from the proposed mining operation will accumulate and runoff will continue to adversely affect our coastal marine area around Havelock and the inner Sounds," Mason said.
Ngati Kuia was also concerned about the impact this would have on traditional food gathering areas, including the Te Oranga Tuna Mataitai, the only eel reserve in the Marlborough region.
Just up the road from the mining site was the Te Hora Marae, which would have a clear line of sight to any visual and noise pollution caused by the mine, Mason said.
"This is solely an economically-based proposal with significant profits going offshore."
Ngati Kuia had previously opposed consents for test drilling in Canvastown by Elect Mining as well as its New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals mining permit application.
Elect Mining was formed in 2012, and three of its four listed shareholders had addresses registered in the United States.
However, Madden, a New Zealand citizen, said one of the other two people listed as shareholders - the other is a company - had residency.
The mine would provide a significant economic boost to Canvastown and the wider region, and the claim that profits would flow offshore was misguided, he said.
Elect Mining estimated gross revenues from the mine would amount to $7 million a year, and Madden said he would be surprised if the vast majority of this did not go back into the community.
"People have this romantic vision of gold mining, of people going in and making their fortunes, but it's just not like that," he said.
"We're taking a big risk doing what we're doing and the only guaranteed benefits are for the community, not us."
The mine would not directly employ many workers, but it would be a boon for service industries, such as trucking companies and fuel providers, he said.
Elect Mining was in the process of conducting an archeological assessment of the mining area, and had a plan in place if any material was found.
Madden said, like other operations the company operated on the West Coast, he was confident any environmental impacts could be mitigated.
He said the company was aware of the flood risk but it would endeavour to keep the nearby waterways clean, although he was reluctant to discuss plans through the media.
Ngati Kuia environmental manager Raymond Smith said the iwi had opposed the application to mine through informal discussions with the council.
The resource consent was lodged on September 8, but was referred back to Elect Mining so they could provide more information.
Until then, the council would not be able to decide whether to make the consent publicly notified, which the company had argued against and which Smith said Ngati Kuia had recommended.
"As kaitiaki of our natural resources we are obligated to highlight the issues that are of concern to us," he said.
Elect Mining was planning to hold a consultation meeting with the community in the Canvastown Memorial Hall but a date was yet to be decided.
- The Marlborough Express