Canvastown residents have been assured no-one will get into the gold beneath their feet without their input, in what is likely going to be a “very, very thorough process”.
The Trout Hotel in Canvastown was the set for a heated debate on Thursday evening, as the Wakamarina Valley turned out in full force to voice their opinions over plans to mine gold in the area.
Property values, the impact on the water table and wells in the area, sedimentation and noise pollution were at the top of the list of concerns raised by residents.
The public meeting was called by officials of gold mining company New Zealand Placer Mining Ltd (NZPM) as part of their consultative process prior to seeking resource consents to begin mining.
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NZPM propose to mine an estimated 20,000 ounces of gold on farmland adjacent to State Highway 6 and Wakamarina Road at Canvastown.
The 130-hectare site is the same area US-owned Elect Mining was refused consent to mine four years ago, and is said to be one of the richest alluvial gold deposits in the country.
Addressing the gathering, company manager Peter Hall said they were committed to ensuring the project was successfully implemented in a way that appropriately managed effects and had a positive impact in the community.
The company intended to progressively rehabilitate the site back to farmland as mining progressed. A maximum of 6ha of disturbed area at one time was anticipated across the site.
Many said they did not see any difference between this proposal and Elect Mining’s proposal which was rebuffed four years ago.
Hall assured the gathering that the difference was in the consultative process, and noted that NZPM was a New Zealand company with strong connections to the top of the south.
He added that plans were still in the very early stages and resource consents had not yet been sought.
“We bought this mining permit several years ago. At the end of the day, it’s a piece of paper that says we’ve got exclusive rights to those minerals in the ground. That’s all – it doesn’t give us access to the land; it doesn’t mean we can go and dig a hole,” he said.
Hall said the engagement with the local community prior to lodging resource consent applications would help finalise the scope of the proposal.
The company had also engaged with Ngāti Kuia, and were consulting with Transpower, the Department of Conservation and Marlborough District Council.
A number of technical experts had been engaged to undertake full assessments, including hydrology, flood modelling, aquatic, environment, erosion and sediment control, noise, visual and archaeological impacts.
Further assessments around cultural impact and geotechnical design, for instance, would be undertaken as deemed necessary.
Mining was anticipated to take place over a period of five to seven years. A 10-year term would be sought for the resource consents to allow for contingencies.
Marlborough Sounds ward councillor Barbara Faulls gained applause from the gathering when she assured residents that their concerns would be taken into serious consideration throughout the process.
“When there is a hearing panel with something as big as this, it is likely that it is going to be conducted by independent commissioners, and probably one councillor from within council who is fully qualified under the resource management act to sit on that actual hearing panel,” Faulls said.
“It’s a very, very thorough process, and there is huge encouragement for everybody within the community to have their say, whether they want the actual mining or don’t,” she said.
“Underneath that hearing process, consideration is given to all the expert advice, not only from the mining company, but from the council’s experts,” Faulls added.
“Every single little salt and pepper bit that goes into this process is considered, and at the end of the hearing, if you don’t like what the commissioners come up with, you have another opportunity to say you don’t like it, or you want the conditions changed.”
Faulls went on to assure the gathering that they could ask for certain conditions to be put in place, or for studies and assessments to be undertaken around their concerns.
“Please don’t leave here tonight thinking that you don’t have a say – you do,” she said.