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No Choice But To Turn Down Mine Application

15 August 2001
Government Has No Choice But To Turn Down Mine Application

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said the significant environmental risks associated with the proposal for a new West Coast gold mine meant the Government had no choice but to decline the application.

GRD Macraes have applied to expand to 260 hectares an open cast gold mine, with a 36 hectare tailings dam for toxic waste in the North Westland wildlife corridor of the Victoria Conservation Park near Reefton. A decision from Conservation Minister Sandra Lee is expected shortly.

"In making this decision Sandra Lee has a statutory duty to consider the long-term future of the region and the potential impact of such a mine on the ecology and conservation value of the area.

"Conservation areas are set aside for their ecological value and their natural beauty. Mining is just not compatible with this," she said.

Key wildlife in the area include robins, kakariki, kaka and kereru.

"Given the unstable geography of the proposed site - including 12 active faults within 50 kilometres of the site - and high annual rainfall of 2.2 metres per annum - an approval for this mine would be at complete odds with the Minister's statutory requirements," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"We do not expect the Minister to grant approval for this mine and would be very upset if it were to be given. Approving this mine could quite possibly end in disaster for the West Coast," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said the experience with the Waitekauri mine in her Coromandel electorate, in which the tailings damn has slipped after being built on unstable land, should act as a strong lesson in this case.

"The Waitekauri mine was built on Conservation land as well and was built on what 'experts' said was stable land. Despite $20 million being spent on trying to stabilise the slipping dam, nobody can be sure that the slipping has stopped.

"Any slippage of a tailings dam on this proposed site would expose the Inanguhua and Buller rivers to risk of serious contamination from a range of heavy metals," she said.

Ms Fitzsimons said approving the mine would contradict the Alliance's pre-election policy to stop mining on the Conservation estate.

"The challenge for this Government is to provide real, long term jobs which protect the ecosystems and the environmental integrity of valuable natural areas, not jobs which are environmentally risky and unsustainable.

"The Minister has no choice at all but to turn down this application."

Ends

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