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Macraes Mine Would Impose Large Costs

May 21, 2001

Macraes Mine Would Impose Large Costs On Crown And Environment

Declining GRD Macraes Ltd mining access to Victoria Forest Park would safeguard the Crown against ongoing liability for New Zealand's biggest toxic waste site, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

"A "no" decision would also protect more than 260 ha of important beech forest habitat in the North Westland wildlife corridor and the high wildlife, recreational, and fishery values of the Inangahua and Buller River systems," Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

"The 75 ha tailings dumps for GRD Macraes' proposed Globe Progress mine at Reefton are more than twice the size of the impoundment at Coeur Gold's troubled Golden Cross mine near Waihi."

"There is a greater risk of subsidence or failure in the tailings dam at the Reefton site because it in an area which is highly faulted and seismically active and has heavy rainfall."

Ms Sage said the mining licence and water permits for the Golden Cross mine in Coromandel were granted on the supposition that the site was geologically stable, when with the additional tailings load it has proved not to be.

"More than $20 million has been spent on trying to remedy the consequences of deep seated instability beneath and downslope from the tailings dam and prevent contamination of the Firth of Thames."

"GRD Macraes can walk away from the Reefton mine site when mining ends in 15-20 years, or sooner if it has financial problems. If subsidence or fractures occur in the tailings impoundments, the Crown could face massive stabilisation and management costs well in excess of the $8 million bond set by local authorities," Ms Sage said.

"An independent audit of the company's resource consent applications highlighted the absence of any comprehensive investigation of land stability on the Globe Progress site. The audit report recommended that the overall stability of the site be investigated and peer reviewed."

Ms Sage said further work was also recommended on current and historic evidence on mass movement and how changes in topography and groundwater in relation to the overall geological structure of the area may precipitate new movement.

"The Minister would be gambling with the health of the conservation park and Buller's rivers if she grants consent, given the limited information about the stability of the site and how it will be affected by the millions of tonnes of waste rock and tailings slurry."

"Any subsidence or failure of the tailings impoundment and the release of contaminated water and tailings with high concentrations of arsenic, antimony, copper, lead and cadmium into surface streams and the Inangahua and Buller River systems would have catastrophic effects on the downstream waterways."

"The 80-120 jobs the company claims the mine will provide, should not obscure the severe environmental and financial costs associated with large scale instability in hard rock gold mines."

"The company is understating the mine's potential impacts by relying on information provided in 1993 for a mine that was less than half the size of current proposal. This is inadequate given the risks involved."


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