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Reefton Gold Mine Toxic Legacy From Former Govt

Reefton Gold Mine Is Toxic Legacy From Former National Government

Eugenie Sage, regional field officer, Tel. (03) 3666 317

The Department of Conservation's decision to give final approval GRD Macraes' proposed Reefton hard rock gold mine is a toxic legacy of the National Government.

Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage says, the Department had its hands tied by the former Conservation Minister Denis Marshall's 1993 decision to allow Macraes' to mine in Victoria Conservation Park.

"The Department's decision, however, to permit GRD Macraes to increase the mine area from 107 ha to 170 ha is galling. It shows little consideration of the high wildlife values of the beech and beech/rimu forests of Victoria Conservation Park.

"The mine proposal that has been approved, while smaller than the company's 2000 proposal declined by Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee, is still a very sizeable mine," Ms Sage says.

"It involves a 35 ha pit, a 50 ha waste rock stack (with at least 54 million tonnes of waste rock) and a 22 ha tailings dump. Such a mine will destroy 170 ha of forest.

"It will create water pollution risks for local streams, groundwater and the Inangahua and Buller Rivers from the mine processing plant discharges, acid mine drainage from the waste rock stack, and seepage, subsidence or overflow from the tailings dump."

"Hard rock gold mining is quite different from alluvial gold mining and can create substantially greater water pollution problems. These risks are compounded by the high rainfall (2.2 metres annually) and the fact that there are 12 active earthquake faults within 50 km of the mine," Ms Sage says.

"The mine will create a major hazardous waste site in the hills behind Reefton. It is disappointing that since the mine was first proposed, the Ministry for the Environment has neglected its statutory responsibilities under the Environment Act to advise Government and public authorities on pollution control and the control and management of hazardous substances.

"The Ministry failed to take an active role in the resource consent processes under the Resource Management Act on the particular impacts and problems caused by hard rock gold mining and the risks associated with tailings dumps and acid mine drainage.

"New Zealand's natural environment and future generations will now suffer the consequences of this neglect and the politically expedient decisions of the former Minister of Conservation."


email: sage@chc.forest-bird.org.nz

Barry Weeber
Senior Researcher
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society
PO Box 631
New Zealand
Phone 64-4-385-7374
Fax 64-4-385-7373

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