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Reefton gold mine could eclipse Coromandel problem

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Proposed Reefton gold mine could eclipse Coromandel
mining problems

Forest and Bird is calling on the Government not to allow the proposed GRD Macraes gold mine to proceed. The proposed mine on conservation land at Reefton could be a bigger environmental disaster than the Coromandel mines.

Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager, Eric Pyle, said GRD Macraes gold mine could leave a toxic legacy greater than anything seen in the Coromandel. The tailings dumps proposed for the Reefton mine are twice the size of the dump at Waitekauri (Golden Cross), where over $30 million has been spent to fix up slipping tailings.

“Tailings dumps have a poor safety record, as we have seen in the Coromandels. The proposed Reefton mine site is less geologically stable than Waitekauri, with fault lines and a higher rainfall. To allow this mine to go ahead is to invite disaster,” said Mr Pyle.

“The Buller River is a nationally outstanding river protected by a water conservation order. The proposed mine in the Buller Catchment could cause toxic pollution of the river for years”.

The Government is due to make a decision in the next few weeks on the company’s application to access conservation land. “The mine should not be allowed to proceed. It poses too great a risk to local streams and the nationally outstanding Inangahua and Buller Rivers,” Mr Pyle said.

“If the tailing dam fractures or subsides, it could cost tens of millions of dollars to try to fix. The Government and West Coast ratepayers could well be left footing the bill for a major toxic clean-up,” Mr Pyle said.

Ends

Eric Pyle
Conservation Manager
email: e.pyle@wn.forest-bird.org.nz

Notes to media

1. There have been permanent and significant environmental problems associated with subsidence at Coromandel’s Waitekauri mine, despite it being built on a site which was supposed to be geologically stable. More than $30 million has been spent on “land stabilisation” and another $10 million on closing the mine. This is to try and prevent contamination of the Firth of Thames. The proposed bond for the Reefton mine is $8-20 million.

2. A 100,000 tonne tailings dam at Mt Te Aroha from the defunct Tui Mine is still contaminating two mountain streams which previously provided the town’s water supply, and groundwater. This is 30 years after the mine closed. Government has recently granted Environment Waikato funding for a study into the treatment and disposal of mine waste.

The proposed GRD Macraes mine would create more than 13 million tonnes of slurry tailings in two dumps in Devils Creek and Fossickers Creek near Reefton.

3. There are 12 active faults within 50 km of the proposed Reefton mine site. The closest, the White Creek fault is only 7 km away. Annual rainfall is 2.2 metres.

4. Recent water quality monitoring by the West Coast Regional Council has found that at least 30 West Coast streams (or an estimated 150-500 km of waterways) to be badly contaminated by acid mine drainage from old and current coal mines.

5. The huge scale of the proposed Reefton mine and the recognised problem of acid mine drainage from hard rock gold mining means there is a severe water pollution risk. Acid mine drainage from the 105 ha of waste rock stacks (one 200 metres high) is likely to be contaminated by arsenic given the high arsenic levels in an estimated 10 percent

Contact: Eric Pyle, Conservation Manager – phone 04 385 7374 work; 025 227 8420; email e.pyle@wn.forest-bird.org.nz; or Eugenie Sage, Field Officer – phone (03) 3666 317 (wk) or (03) 3371 251 (home); sage@chc.forest-bird.org.nz;.

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