What are the Wharekirauponga development commitments?
We have clear development commitments for Wharekirauponga:
- We’ve ruled out mining on the surface due to the location and nature of the Conservation land.
- We believe we can enter from outside Conservation land and tunnel underground to the minerals, with all processing using existing facilities at Waihi.
- A Mining Permit does not give us the right to mine. Our next step is further study and engagement to assess whether this can all be done in an appropriate manner.
Has exploration disrupted the forest park?
Only in a very limited way and for a relatively short period of time at any given site. We focus on restoring areas after we finish work.
Our drilling rigs for exploration are built on platforms above the forest floor to protect plants and natural features and we select sites that don’t have vulnerable species, like frogs, present. We use independent experts to search for these first, disqualify a site if those species are found, and we use wildlife-proof fences to keep wildlife out of harm’s way.
When we’ve completed an exploratory drill, we helicopter out our equipment and restore the area to its original state. When we are working on conservation land, we are extremely careful and conscious of its conservation values.
If you mined underground, would you need to build anything on the surface within the park?
We may need to apply to install ventilation shafts with caps at places in the park to ventilate (get fresh air into) the tunnels below.
These won’t be any bigger or more numerous than our exploration drill sites over the last 15 years and are simply metal caps at the top of ventilation shafts.
We would helicopter them in and out again when finished, fully restoring the forest area. Painted green, they are hardly noticeable during the time they need to be there.
How soon might you start mining?
It’s too early to say whether, or when, we might begin mining. First, we have a number of technical studies to do, if we are granted a mining permit. This includes environmental, cultural and social-related studies – to assess whether or not we are able to apply to mine at Wharekirauponga in a way that meets the technical, cultural, social and environmental requirements of the area. An application to build a mine would be for resource consents under the Resource Management Act.
How can you apply to mine on DOC land? Hasn’t the government banned this?
The government is considering a ban on new mines on the conservation estate, but we don’t yet know whether or in what form this will become law, so we have to operate under existing rules.
However, we aren’t seeking to cut across this policy because our development commitments at Wharekirauponga have ruled out mining on the surface within the conservation estate. Any processing or waste disposal, were a mine to go ahead, would be done at Waihi using existing facilities.
Our next steps, if we are granted this permit, will be to study whether we can tunnel in from outside the conservation estate to extract the gold with minimal surface impact.