A Canadian company has been given the go-ahead to explore for platinum in an area between Murchison and the Nelson Lakes.
Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges announced the exploration permits yesterday at the Minerals West Coast forum in Greymouth.
Canadian-based Lynx Platinum Limited has been awarded three exploration permits covering 355 square kilometres near Murchison, and two exploration permits covering 168 square kilometres north of Invercargill.
Each permit lasts for five years and allows the company to explore for metallic minerals, including platinum group metals, gold, silver, copper, and aluminium.
Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said it would be interesting to see what happened from the exploration.
"If there is potential for good mining to be had, that's potential for economic development for our region which we should be supporting.
"We would want to make sure the exploration was not adversely impacting on the area or the environment. If there is mining, substantial effects could occur, and we would need to ensure safeguards on how the mining operated."
The Platinum New Zealand 2013 Minerals Tender process began in March last year with consultation with iwi, the Department of Conservation and local authorities, and the competitive tender closed in April.
Murchison and Districts Community Council chairman Simon Blakemore said he had been unaware of an exploration permit tender or any discussion in the community on it.
"I imagine there will be a bit of an uproar when people hear about it."
He expected some people would not like it, but others would see advantages. It covered a huge area, including conservation land as well as private property, he said.
Forest and Bird top of the south field officer Debs Martin said platinum mining produced large amounts of waste product and polluted waterways.
"That waste is our forests, the homes of our native animals."
She said the three permits that had been granted covered four key conservation areas and came concerningly close to Nelson Lakes National Park. They included the Glenhope Scenic Reserve and crossed the Buller River, as well as an important braided section of the Matakitaki River.
"These areas have a real mix of biodiversity values - both terrestrial and freshwater. They range from mountain tops to valley floors, and include species like the longfin eel, and forest birds like kaka and kea that spill out from Nelson Lakes National Park."
Martin said the areas also included sites where Forest & Bird had found long-tailed bats, and some of the valley floor flats included hosted rare plants, which were protected in the Tasman District.
She said she had visited Parliament on Tuesday to launch Forest & Bird's campaign to protect conservation land from the threat of mining. The proposal included some of the areas the campaign focused on.
"These are conservation areas, areas protected for their conservation values. They have been held, bought or gifted to the public for protection - not for mining."
Martin said some might say the permits were about exploration,
but she felt Lynx Platinum Ltd had every intention to mine any platinum it may find.
Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges told the Minerals West Coast forum that it was positive to see international companies entering the exploration market in New Zealand.
"These permits present an exciting opportunity for the Tasman and Southland regions," he said.
Bridges said it was a credit to the industry that international investors were looking to New Zealand.
Lynx would spend about $3 million in its first three years, which could rise to $7.5 million over five years if the first stages of work were successful.
Bridges said the minerals sector already contributed more than $1 billion to the country's GDP.
Lynx had also applied for permits to explore in the Bluff area.
Land already permitted, and land listed as unavailable for mining under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 and World Heritage Areas were automatically excluded from the tender areas. In addition, Nelson City and Richmond were excluded from the tender area for East Nelson. However no permit has been issued for East Nelson, one of five areas open for tender.
Platinum is considered a strategic metal because of its application in automotive, agriculture, electronic, dental, medical, and aerospace industries. Platinum is also used in environmentally-related technologies such as fuel cells and solar technologies.
An exploration permit gives the permit holder the exclusive right to explore the metallic minerals over the area specified in the permit only, for five years. Access to the land must be negotiated with the landholder.
- The Nelson Mail
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