No calls yet on Longwoods platinum

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 13:27 21/01/2013

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No decisions on the future of the Longwood Range platinum prospects have been made.

The Longwoods, west of Otautau, could have up to one million troy ounces of platinum group metals - potentially worth about $2 billion - and are seen as one of the most promising resource areas in the country.

It is geologically similar to platinum-rich parts of South Africa and the United States.

They were closed for tenders from companies looking to explore or mine in September 2011, with New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals suggesting they would be open for competitive tender - in which companies bid for the right to explore and mine - in 2012.

This was later put out to the end of 2012, or early this year, as the Government continued data analysis from the range.

However, NZPAM said tendering would not be open until at least the middle of the year.

Spokesman Britton Broun said the Government was hopeful a decision would be made in the coming months.

Gold and platinum mining and exploration have a long history in the range, although it is more than a century since there was commercial platinum extraction.

A platinum mine worked near Orepuki from 1897-1907, extracting 47kg of metals.

Specks of platinum can be found on the beach at Orepuki, washed down from the hills.

The platinum group metals include platinum itself and other valuable metals, such as palladium, which is used in catalytic converters for cars, and iridium, which is used in alloys for aircraft parts.

In an unprecedented move last year, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals asked the Department of Conservation to change its Southland Conservation Management Strategy - which is currently being revised - to allow air access for minerals exploration operations.

DOC intends to publish a draft of the new management strategy in March.

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- The Southland Times

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