Mining industry says no more projects the size of Te Kuha, but smaller ones waiting
By Jonathan Underhill
June 22 (BusinessDesk) - The mining industry body Straterra says there aren't any projects the size of the Te Kuha in the wings but there are many smaller projects, predominantly on the West Coast whose future is currently in the hands of the Minister of Conservation.
The Department of Conservation said it has 11 mining applications pending decision, including applications to vary access arrangements. Most of the applications are for West Coast areas. That's slightly less than the 16 or so applications to NZ Petroleum & Minerals, which may include private land.
Over the weekend, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage turned down an application by Stevenson Mining to build a mine for high-grade coal on 12 hectares of conservation land near Westport which had already been approved by the Buller District Council. The minister said the Te Kuha area was "one of the last two areas of intact, elevated Brunner coal measure ecosystems ... an undisturbed area which is precious and unique and supports complex and diverse habitats for threatened plants and wildlife including great spotted kiwi, land snails and lizards."
Straterra chief Chris Baker said in a statement that the fact the project had already been signed off under the Resource Management Act by the regional and district councils "clearly demonstrated that the overall mine proposal is able to be managed in a way that meets high environmental standards."
Baker said Te Kuha would have been a $28 million boost to the West Coast economy and the decision "comes on the back of the government’s proposal to ban new mining on conservation land - a proposal that we oppose, absolutely."
Straterra says it would rather see such decisions made by an independent authority, such as the Environment Court. "This decision politicises that process," Baker said yesterday.
Last month Sage said the government was seeking public feedback on the plan to halt new mines on conservation land - a policy first announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last November. The majority of existing mining activities on public conservation land range from coal mines to alluvial gold mines and gravel extraction, with most on the West Coast, Otago and Coromandel. There are also mines in Southland, Tasman and Otago. There are 113 approved mining operations on Conservation Land and 54 of these are active, Sage said on May 26.