Silence on Waimea mine hopes 'scary'
The Government will not release details of how many companies have made bids to prospect the Waimea Plains for mining - a move some residents view with suspicion.
A 1214-square-kilometre area to the northwest of Gore, and including the settlements of Riversdale and Balfour, was opened for tender in June.
The deadline for work programme submissions passed on Monday, with a decision on which company has won the right to prospect expected in December.
New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals believed there were significant amounts of lignite in the area, which could be used to produce coal-seam gas.
Spokeswoman Tracey Dillimore said the Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry would not make public how many companies who had bid, citing commercial sensitivity. No information would be released until December, when the winning company is to be announced, she said.
Riversdale beef and lamb farmer Zella Horrell said not releasing the information increased suspicion of the Government.
"It's scary they won't release that info," she said. "If they are doing this for the good of the country, why are they not being open and transparent about the process?"
Farmers in the area met ministry officials in August about the process, raising some concern about access to land without owners' consent and the possibility of the controversial extraction process fracking being used.
However, there was also some support for mining.
Two new areas of the Great South Basin were also offered for tender, one to the south of the area being explored by Shell and the other to the east. Offers for the blocks closed yesterday, but the same Mobie conditions applied to details.
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