Go ahead for gold mine

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 10:18 20/11/2012

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A new gold mining exploration project in Waihi looks set to proceed.

The Environment Court has released its report on the Martha Exploration Project (MEP) and it backs Newmont Waihi Gold's plan to tunnel into the north wall of the Martha open pit within the boundaries of the current Martha Mining Licence area.

 The Court's decision allows the global mining giant to proceed pending Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley's approval.

Green Party  mining spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said it was disappointing the Court sided with Newmont over concerned residents.

Ms Delahunty said if approved, underground operations would be carried out 24 hours a day, seven days a week including extended blasting hours. 

She was among submitters who argued in favour of restricting hours of operations and against extending blasting hours.

"It's a shame that these reasonable demands were ignored," she said in a  statement.

"It is clear from this hearing that the law does not protect the most vulnerable residents in Waihi from the effects of mining.''

While most submitters did not oppose the plan outright, residents feared the project may effect their quality of life.

The report states: ''We are satisfied that, for most of the Waihi residents, the noise and vibration conditions we recommend will satisfactorily mitigate any adverse effects.''

The Court recommended MEP be a standalone project that must be completed by July 7, 2017 - any mining  project that results from the exploration activities would require a separate application.

The judgement said Newmont's engagement with iwi was insufficient although there is no requirement to do so under the Mining Act.

There was ''no evidence of any cultural mitigation of a satisfactory nature'' to show that MEP recognised and provided for the relationship of Ngati Hako with Pukewa Hill.

On the positive side, the report said the project will provide economic benefits - about 40 jobs - that will flow into the region.

It also praised Newmont's community programmes, saying it is appropriate to acknowledge ''the considerable attempts by Newmont to respond in a socially responsible manner''.

Newmont Waihi Gold general manager Glen Grindlay said that while it was heartening to have the project recommended the company still had work to do with residents.

 ''We know that there are some members of the community who are still unhappy with MEP, and we would like to continue to work with them,'' he said.

''Also, the Court has clearly pointed out that we did not do all we could to address the concerns of iwi, and we have taken this advice onboard.''

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There is a period of fifteen working days to allow for an appeal on points of law and once the Minister's approves MEP, work can start.

Mr Grindlay said that could be well into the new year.  

- Waikato

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