Gold-mining suspended amid probe into dredge sinking

Operations at the Earnscleugh gold mine are on hold following a leak in the dredge which caused it to sink to the bottom of the pond it operates on.

The floating plant, owned by Christchurch-based L&M Group, is now on land alongside the Clutha River near the Earnscleugh Tailings Reserve where gold was extensively mined a century ago.

L&M group chairman Geoff Loudin said the damage to the dredge was yet to be assessed, but all 35 staff employed at the mine would be retained.

"It will be re-floated and fixed to continue operations," he said.

The deck of the barge was under about 2 metres of water although some of the dredge was above water, he said.

"It's a no-go zone while we assess the situation and work out the best way to proceed," he said.

Other company representatives would not comment on the incident but the sinking was believed to have occurred sometime during the weekend.

Maritime New Zealand and the Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry's Health and Safety Group are jointly investigating the incident.

L&M Mining was granted resource consents for the alluvial Earnscleugh goldmining project in 2004.

Work at the 150ha gold mine started in 2009 and 24-hour mining using a 40-tonne plant began in June last year.

The Southland Times