Dunedin: A bitter stand-off between a local community and miners has emerged after a significant seam of gold was found on protected conservation land in New Zealand’s North Island, reported the Guardian.
Last week, New Talisman Gold Mines reported they had found a large vein of gold in the Karangahake Gorge in the North Island; 8,500kg of highest quality gold, which put it in the top five per cent of deposits worldwide when ranked on grade, according to the company.
The find is believed to be worth tens of millions of New Zealand dollars.
Talisman’s General Manager of Operations Wayne Chowles said the company planned to begin extracting small amounts of gold early next year, but locals in opposition to the scheme have sprung into action, saying the mining project threatens the “peace and harmony” of their “sacred” mountain and community.
The Karangahake Gorge lies on protected department of conservation land in the Coromandel peninsula and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Located one and a half hour’s drive from Auckland and 55 minutes from Hobbiton, the scenic gorge is famed for its rich history and lush natural beauty.
But now the mining company and walkers are forced to share one narrow access road to the mountain.
Chowles said there would be “flow-down” benefits to the local community, and the footprint of the mining company in the reserve was “small” at just 0.4 of a hectare.
But some locals stridently disagree. Ruby Jane Powell is a member of the protest group Protect Karangahake.
The group has been opposing any mining action in the gorge for a number of years, but have “doubled their efforts” this week to protect the land, sending dozens of protestors to block the access road, or slow down prospecting efforts by sending “very slow walkers” to clog up the road and prevent vehicle access.
New Talisman were granted a 25-year mining permit to prospect and mine on conservation land in Karangahake in 2009, using an existing underground mine that has been in operation at various times between 1892 and 1992.
It is legal to mine on conservation land in New Zealand if the government and local council grant a permit and if land access is given from the department of conservation.
As of May there were 43 active mines on conservation land in New Zealand, according to the ministry of business, innovation and employment.
New Talisman has all the consents they need and the government insists mining activity won’t affect the historic gorge. The only thing standing in their path is local opposition.