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New Zealand mining bonds hopelessly small

New Zealand mining bonds hopelessly small

The bonds New Zealand mining companies have to provide to cover post-closure clean-up costs are "hopelessly small", says Coromandel Watchdog spokesperson Denis Tegg.

"The recent mining debate highlighted the derisory level of mining royalties. Mining bonds received little attention but they are equally pathetic and inadequate", says Mr. Tegg.

"For example, Newmont Waihi Gold's final bond is capped at around $10 million after the Martha open pit and tailings dam is closed. Title to the mine site and all legal liability will then pass to a local trust. Any environmental clean-up costs exceeding $10 million will have to be met by the New Zealand taxpayer."

"In the USA, BP is having to pay all of the direct environmental clean-up costs for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as well as compensate affected business owners for loss of income. This level of post-closure protection will not be available to Waihi landowners if more houses slump into a mine hole, or if heavy metals leak from the Waihi tailings dam and poison farmer's groundwater. The US Congress has just passed a law imposing unlimited liability on oil companies for offshore drilling damages. The USA has much stricter bonding laws for on-shore mining operations than we have in New Zealand."

"Newmont will of course say their mine uses modern best practice and technology, but this provides no comfort. That's exactly what BP said about its Deep Horizon drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The Martha mine owners fiercely opposed Watchdog's submission to the Environment Court for a bond closer to $100 million than $10 million, and that a high-tech synthetic liner, rather than a clay liner to be placed under its tailings dam as a more effective barrier to groundwater contamination by heavy metals," said Mr. Tegg.

"In 1997 the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment made numerous recommendations about bonds which have been largely ignored. For example the Commissioner asked the government to develop a methodology and to assess the financial risks to the Crown of long-term post-closure damage to the environment associated with mine tailings dams. Those recommendations must be actioned, and the bonding arrangements for all existing and future mines must be reviewed urgently," said Mr. Tegg.


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