Soapstone mine petition nears 900 signatures

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 13:00 24/11/2012

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The organiser of a petition opposing the proposed steatite quarry in the Cobb Valley has said he would "fight the mine every step of the way".

Moutere resident Colin Robertson is behind the petition along with a collective of environmental groups.

The petition has so far gathered almost 900 signatures.

Ngatimoti-based Steatite Ltd seeks to quarry and remove 15,000 tonnes of steatite (soapstone) slabs annually and truck 32 weekly loads down the Cobb Dam Rd over the next 38 years. The raw rock would largely be exported for manufacture into benchtops and tiles.

Gion Deplazes of Steatite Ltd declined to comment.

Opponents are concerned the mining, which they say would be seen from the Cobb Valley lookout, would destroy the site's highly mineralised and rare flora and fauna and be unable to be rehabilitated. Heavy traffic on the narrow gravel road would put other users at risk.

The approximately five-hectare site under application borders Kahurangi National Park and is part of a larger 49ha remnant of North West Nelson Forest Park land left out of the national park because one of the three steatite outcrops on it was mined mid-last century for its magnesium content.

Mr Robertson said opponents would "fight the mine every step of the way".

He said the process to approve the mine may only allow public input if Tasman District Council decided to publicly notify the company's application for mining activities.

Mr Robertson planned to present the online and paper petitions, currently being distributed, to the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Nelson Marlborough Conservation Board, which first have to agree to an access arrangement for the mining activity before the application proceeds to the council.

DOC's final decision would be made by Nelson-Marlborough conservator Neil Clifton with input from the board.

However the formal process cannot start until DOC completes an access arrangement report.

DOC Golden Bay area manager John Mason said he was waiting for further information from the applicant to complete the report.

DOC Nelson's Sean McGee, the conservation board's servicing officer, said the item had been set down for its November agenda but deferred until the report was complete.

Mr Robertson said the petitions would be presented to the board when it considered DOC's report.

Any delay in the process would provide more time to raise public awareness, he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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