Fearful residents can't afford to flee mine

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2013
Waihi gold mine, Tracey Pedersen
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

SHAKY GROUND: Tracey Pedersen's home has been spoiled by a new underground goldmine, but she cannot afford to leave the house, which has plunged in value.

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Tracey Pedersen's home was perfect.

Her acre of land and humble house in Waihi's Gladstone Rd was her idea of a new beginning - a place to raise her two young boys, keep some goats, to settle down in a safe and quiet neighbourhood.

"I bought here to be here a long time," Miss Pedersen said yesterday.

"And at the time that I bought there was no mention of mining out here."

Now her house shakes daily with the underground blasts from Newmont Waihi Gold's mining operation 500 metres away, and yesterday, consent was granted for the billion-dollar international company to mine directly under her home, and 44 others.

It will be New Zealand's first modern mine directly below a residential area, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"I'm just gutted," Miss Pedersen said.

"We're not actually anti-mining, we don't mind if it's out in the hills, but when it comes to actually under your home, that is the concern."

Her house has already dropped in value and will likely fall further, but she said she "can't afford to go anywhere else".

Green Party mining spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the decision to mine under people's homes against their will set a dangerous precedent, and described it as a "David and Goliath situation".

Miss Pedersen said controversy over the Correnso Mine had divided the town.

"It's really segregated the community. Even though things look relatively friendly on the surface, below there are people who are absolutely devastated."

An Independent Commissioners's Panel, appointed by Hauraki District Council, found that the positive effects of Newmont's Correnso Mine proposal were "significant" but acknowledged the direct and indirect effects of underground blasts.

They included "those on property values and social wellbeing", the report said.

Miss Pedersen said the blasts varied in intensity. Some days there was a loud bang followed by earthquake-like tremors.

"Sometimes it feels like somebody's got a hammer under your feet.

"Last week I was sitting at the computer and it almost felt like I was swaying."

Dianne Hill, 66, who has lived on Gladstone Rd for 23 years, said: "I just don't feel safe any more.

"Newmont can't 100 per cent guarantee any of us that nothing's going to go wrong," she said.

"There's a lot of unhappy people in this street."

A Newmont employee directly affected by Correnso, who the Times agreed not to name, said "it's not right" that the company was mining beneath homes.

"I know of people who are quitting their properties, basically taking $100,000 or $150,000 hits, just walking away. They just don't want to be the area.

"Our fear is that if we had to move we could lose $200,000 from what we paid for the property."

Newmont Waihi Gold general manager Glen Grindlay was pleased with the decision, but said it was "highly likely" the company would contest some of the conditions in the commissioners' ruling through the Environment Court.

He said the continuation of goldmining would provide "significant benefits" for Waihi.

Newmont's economic consultant, Dr Brent Wheeler, estimated the Correnso mine would provide about 266 jobs and bring in $81 million annually.

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Indirectly, he estimated it would result in another 400 jobs and $312m.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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