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Smaller Reefton Mine Proposal Still High Risk

Smaller Reefton Mine Proposal Still High Risk And Inappropriate In Victoria Conservation Park

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society will continue to oppose a hard rock gold mine in Victoria Conservation Park if GRD Macraes Ltd makes a new application to Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee or pursues its original application.

"The GRD Macraes proposal highlights the current problems with the Crown Minerals Act and the lack of any chance for the public to comment on mining on public conservation land," Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.

"If the company wanted to build and operate a tourist lodge on the proposed mine site, the public would be able to make submissions on a concession application to the Department of Conservation.

"Mining is in a very privileged position compared to all other commercial uses of conservation land. The public is shut out of having input on any mine application by GRD Macraes Ltd.

"The Reefton mine proposal highlights the need for the Labour/Alliance Government to implement their election policy commitments to protect areas of significant conservation value from mining and to provide a better process with opportunities for public participation.

"In 1994 Forest and Bird opposed Macraes Mining Ltd's original mine proposal and its applications for resource consents under the Resource Management Act. That proposal was half the size of the current application by GRD Macraes.

"Forest and Bird will continue to oppose any revised or smaller mine proposal because of the severe habitat destruction and the ongoing water pollution risks associated with hard rock gold mining, especially on this site in Victoria Conservation Park.

"Hard rock gold mining is very different from traditional alluvial gold mining on the West Coast because of the large amounts of waste rock and highly contaminated tailings produced and the risk of acid mine drainage and water pollution," she said.

"The smaller 1993 proposal is still a very sizeable mine. It involves a 35 ha pit, 50 ha waste rock stack (with 54 million tonnes of waste rock) and 22 ha tailings dump. Such a mine would destroy 170 ha of forest, create severe water pollution risks for local streams, groundwater and the Inangahua and Buller Rivers from the mine processing plant discharges, acid mine drainage, and other pollution problems commonly associated with hard rock gold mining."

"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 site."

Notes to media 1. The 1999 Alliance election Conservation policy provided that: "Amendments to the Crown Minerals Act will be pursued to ensure that areas of particular ecological importance such as National Parks, conservation parks, wilderness and World Heritage areas, reserves, ecological areas, water supply catchments and the coastal marine area will be closed to mining."

Similarly Labour's 1999 election policy recognised the inconsistency between mining activities and other activities on conservation land. Labour promised to: "Ensure that the Conservation Act 1987 and Crown Minerals Act 1991 provide adequate protection from mining activities for areas of significant conservation value; amend the Crown Minerals Act 1991 to establish an appropriate process for consideration of prospecting, exploration and mining applications on conservation land not covered by mineral activity ban, as occurs with other commercial activities such as tourism and recreational activity."

2. There are 112 current mining licences on lands administered by the Department of Conservation on the West Coast. About 50 of these are for gold mining. There are currently 40 active mines and 20 of these are gold mines.(Source www.doc.govt).

Ends


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