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Macraes Gold Mine Is Political Test For Government

SUNDAY, 12 August 2001
MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

MACRAES GOLD MINE IS POLITICAL TEST FOR GOVERNMENT


The decision on whether to allow a hard rock gold mine on conservation land near Reefton is a major test of Government's commitment to sustainable development, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society says.

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee is expected to make a decision shortly on GRD Macraes' application to establish its proposed Globe Progress mine in Victoria Conservation Park. The current proposed mine would cover 550ha and be double the size of the mine agreed in principle by the former Conservation Minister, Denis Marshall in 1993.

"Hard rock gold mining is "dirty development" - the antithesis of the clean green, knowledge society which Government is promoting," Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

"The mine may create 80-120 short term jobs for its 7-10 year life but at a huge environmental cost. This cost includes the destruction of at least 290 ha of beech and beech/ rimu forest, damage to a larger area, the creation of New Zealand's largest toxic waste dump, permanent pollution problems from acid mine drainage, and the risk of catastrophic damage to the Inangahua and Buller Rivers if either of the two tailings dumps fractures or subsides.

"No sensible regional development policy can be based on ecological devastation," Ms Sage said.

"What is now a peaceful, substantially forested landscape would become a large, noisy, and dangerous industrial area if the mine went ahead, said Ms Sage.

"Devils Creek valley would be filled with a 90-112 metre high earth/rock tailings dam (New Zealand's second largest after Benmore) and dump, and a 200 metre high waste rock stack. A forested ridgeline would be excavated to become a 300 metre deep pit into which one could drop the whole of Reefton township."

"The Department of Conservation has estimated that the forest clearance alone could cause the loss of between 100 and 1040 South Island robin and 80 to 200 weka, and reduce habitat for endangered kaka, kakariki (parakeets), long tailed bats and mistletoe."

"A "yes" to the mine would signal that it is jobs at any cost and that Government statements on sustainable development are empty rhetoric," Ms Sage said.

"Leadership on sustainable development requires vision and a commitment to the landscapes, plants, and wildlife that make New Zealand unique, not being trapped in the dirty development and resource abuse of the past."

Ends

Notes to media 1. Prime Minister, Helen Clark said in July, "The Government wants New Zealand to become a world leader in sustainable development. New Zealand takes environmental issues very seriously, both at home and at the international level... We want to make a strong statement on our approach at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa next year, a decade after the Rio Earth Summit." Speech to formal welcome of Dr Klaus Topfer, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme

2. The proposed Globe Progress mine would create New Zealand's largest toxic waste dump with a 46 ha open pit, two waste rock stacks (105 ha) which would generate acid mine drainage and two tailings dumps with a tailings contaminated by heavy metals. The 90 metre high earth rock dam on the Devils Creek tailings dump would be New Zealand's second highest earth dam after Benmore (118m). It would be higher than the Clyde dam (a 75 metre high concrete dam).

3. The mine would increase the power demand on the West Coast by more than a third, causing more environmental damage. Hard rock mining is energy intensive and the mine would require an around the clock supply of 12 MW. Current West Coast power demand is 36 MW with local dams producing 16MW.

Trustpower says its proposed Dobson hydro development is needed to supply Macraes and the proposed Pike River coal mine. The $100 million Dobson scheme would be the biggest hydro development since the Clyde Dam. It would involve diverting much of the flow of the Arnold River and flooding podocarp forest in the Card Creek Ecological Area near Greymouth.

4. The mine would undermine New Zealand's commitment under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions. DoC has estimated that potential methane and CO2 emissions (from rotting vegetation and lost soil carbon from vegetation clearance) would equate to almost 1 % of New Zealand's annual greenhouse emissions and are the equivalent of 930,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (in global warming potential).


Contact: Eugenie Sage, field officer, phone (03)3666-317 (wk) or (03)3371-251 (hm); or Eric Pyle, Conservation Manager - phone (04)385-7374 work; (025)227-8420;

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