American company's bid to mine more than $120m of gold in Marlborough blocked over environment concerns
A proposed gold mine in rural Marlborough expected to make its American owners $7 million a year has been turned down.
Elect Mining wanted to set up and operate a mine in the heart of historic gold mining town Canvastown, between Blenheim and Nelson, close to State Highway 6.
The company, with its two major shareholders in the United States, said the concentration of alluvial gold in the rolling farmland was among the richest the company and its drilling contractor had seen in New Zealand.
Based on the concentrations found in the area the company estimated there was about 3000 kilograms of gold at the 46-hectare site, worth about $126 million based on recent gold prices.
But the application to the Marlborough District Council has been turned down by Auckland commissioner Graham Macky.
The company initially sought consent without public notification, saying the effects of its operation would be negligible.
The company, which has extensive experience mining on the West Coast, expected gross revenue to be about $7m a year, minus its operating costs. It sought a 10-year consent but said it would mine for only five years. There would be five permanent jobs.
Submitters against the proposal included Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia Trust, Friends of Pelorus Estuary, Marine Farming Association, Heritage New Zealand, and a number of Canvastown residents.
Tom Bryant, who owns the land sought by the company for its operation, said he did not have a lot to say until the company decided if it would appeal the decision, which it had 15 days to do from the September 19 decision.
"If it goes to the Environment Court, we'll be looking for those people who do support it, and they are long-standing residents of the area," Bryant said.
Canvastown's Trout Hotel publican Ray Cresswell said he was pleased with the decision, but it was too early to celebrate as it might be appealed.
"I'm happy with the decision, but I'll wait and see," Cresswell said.
Judge Pope, 19, who was hoping join the police force, doubted if there would be much work for local people from the mine.
Part of Ngāti Kuia, Pope said the mine would be too close to his marae, Te Hora.
"We would get all the mess to look at, but we don't get the profits," he said.
"They'll go offshore, it's a US company.
"It could also harm the amateur gold panning. Heaps of people do that, and the tourists like it as well," he said.
"We have to think of our future, our heritage. I'm glad it was turned down. The silt from the mining would affect our rivers and even the sea."
Pope's views echoed those of kaumātua, Hautaki Whareaitu, who spoke in te reo Māori at the hearing of the guardianship role Ngāti Kuia retained for the land.
He quoted the proverb "He huahua te kai, e kāo, he wai te kai" which says water is a better food than any delicacy.
Whareaitu spoke of Ngāti Kuia's concern that silt and other materials would be flushed into the rivers and out to sea.
In his decision, the commissioner said his decision would have been "finely balanced" had it not been for concerns over sediment control and the permanent stockpiles.
Even with proposed mitigation, Macky said the adverse effects for the environment, Ngāti Kuia and Canvastown residents would be moderate, with greater effects for some residents.
But the sediment control and permanent stockpiles "transformed this ... into a clear-cut decision", Macky said.
Sediment levels in Racecourse Stream were a risk, as was re-suspension of sediment when the Wakamarina River overflowed.
But the main matter swaying his decision to decline the application was the risk of the permanent stockpile swelling, and this had not been properly addressed by the applicant.
A lawyer for Elect Mining, based in Nelson, could not be reached for comment.
The company had already secured a mining permit through New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals to extract gold from the site.
Consent for a small scale "hobby" gold dredging operation near Canvastown, sought by Blenheim man Mathias Brandl, was also refused earlier this year.
- The Marlborough Express