Mining protest begins

Not funny: A protester makes his point against mining on the Coromandel at today's protest in Waihi.
Not funny: A protester makes his point against mining on the Coromandel at today's protest in Waihi.

More than 100 protesters have gathered outside Newmont Waihi Gold's office in the town protesting about the company's plans to expand its operations on the Coromandel Penninsula.

Former Green party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons and MP Catherine Delahunty have joined with concerned groups from around the peninsular demanding the company back off from its expansion plans.

Carrying placards, banners and flags the protesters marched up to Newmont's office where Ms Fitzsimons intends to present a declaration from residents who have had enough of mining.

Ms Delahunty said she was ''deeply concerned'' that Newmont has permits to explore for gold in over 40,000 hectares of land in the Coromandel, including in areas of Schedule 4 conservation land.

''Coromandel's environment is the economy,'' said Ms Delahunty, who said tourism was worth $360 million per year to the peninsular's economy.  Newmont, which operates the town's Martha mine, recently announced plans to expand its mining under some homes in Waihi and promised to compensate residents for any property damage.

Newmont Waihi Gold said Catherine Delahunty and the Green Party are seeking to score political points.

Spokesman Sefton Darby claimed they were trying to hijack the ''positive'' community consultation process by bussing people in from outside of Waihi to wave placards.

''There were no protests against our operations during the election campaign, but less than 48 hours after polls closed, Green MP Catherine Delahunty lead a protest against NWG exploration activities,'' Mr Derby said.

''Today's protest seems a continuation of that strategy. It seems a case of campaigning as a respectable party and then reverting to radical protest politics immediately afterwards.''

The company directly employs 400 people and said was responsible for another 300-400 jobs among suppliers and businesses that benefit from spending by the business.  It also makes substantial tax and royalty payments to the government.

''In these tough economic times we find it astonishing that the Green Party is advocating making 700  800 people unemployed in return for what appears to be imaginary green jobs,'' Mr Derby said.

Waikato Times