An $18 million gold operation on the Waikaia River flood
plain in northern Southland will be formally opened in
mid-November, having already begun recovering alluvial gold
from the plain.
Near Freshford on the road to Waikaia township, Waikaia Gold
Ltd has been ramping up production since October 8 and will
be fully operational by the time Minister of Finance Bill
English formally opens the site on November 15.
The operation has been estimated to benefit the local economy
by up to $15 million a year, and employ up to 40 people.
The Waikaia valley was first panned for gold in the early
1860s and up to eight dredges operated by the early-1900s. Up
to 2000 people were recorded in the area around the township.
Managing director Warren Batt said, when contacted, gold was
already being recovered from the site. The project had been
delivered on budget and ahead of schedule.
Sited in paddocks a few hundred metres from the Waikaia
River, a recovery plant floats in a pit up to 16m deep,
surrounded by vertical sheet piles to minimise ground water
seepage and protect from flooding.
The floating plant is fed ore by an excavator and the
tailings are fed back ashore. The pit water goes to settling
ponds, to remove solids, before going into the river.
Tests have indicated an estimated gold resource of 145,000
oz. Gold production is expected to be be 15,000-20,000 oz for
each of the first four years, before falling off, Mr Batt
After annually removing 2 million to 3 million cubic metres
of topsoil and gravel, which is then used as backfill as the
pit is dug and sheet piled further up the paddock, Mr Batt
expects about 700,000 cu m will be processed through the
floating plant every year.
Over the seven to eight-year mine-life, the pit will work its
way about 5km upstream towards the Dome Burn, then be shifted
across the road to an adjacent stream, and might be shifted
back downstream below Freshford, on the other side of the
In December, Tony Haworth, a director at Campbell MacPherson,
said the Waikaia Gold project was an important development
within New Zealand's gold mining industry, and he expected
the company to be among the top five gold producers in the
The project is privately funded by the March family, of
Christchurch, and Mr Batt, and bank financing.