Manager Mark Coleman and L&M Group's Earnscleugh
alluvial gold dredge, which ceases operation in a month.
Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
Belt-tightening in tough times could be the unofficial
theme at New Zealand's 2014 mining conference, which begins on
The three-day Hamilton conference will have a sobering
backdrop of depressed gold and coal prices, a South Island
gold mine closure this week and labour retrenchment involving
several hundred employees throughout the sector during the
Hosted by the New Zealand branch of the Australian Institute
of Mining & Metallurgy (AusIMM), the conference has
attracted about 250 delegates.
There have been few wins to rejoice in during the past year,
with Bathurst Resources having to postpone ramping up its
coal exports because of depressed prices, Oceana Gold
reducing mine life at Macraes in Otago and Reefton on the
West Coast and laying off staff.
Solid Energy has also cut its workforce.
The diverse and long-running L&M Group shocked the sector
this week when it announced it is closing its Earnscleugh
alluvial gold dredging project near Alexandra, the largest
alluvial operation in the country.
With ever increasing production costs, the high New Zealand
dollar and low global commodity prices are taking a heavy
The two factors ultimately wipe tens of millions of dollars
of work and value from local economies.
There should at least be some positive progress reports, from
Newmont's Waihi Gold, which is updating its new underground
Correnso development, and MOD Resources progress at Sam's
Creek, an expanding gold exploration target northwest of
University of Otago students and senior staff appear to be
set for one of their strongest showings at a conference in
recent years and 12 of the 18 student presentations are
linked to Otago.
The National-led Government's ambition to have the mining
sector and the separate oil and gas sector underpin economic
recovery has borne little long-term gain and Energy and
Resources Minister Simon Bridges is likely to be pushed for
answers at the Hamilton conference.
Updates are scheduled to be delivered by Oceana Gold, Solid
Energy, L&M Group and Bathurst, all of whom to varying
degrees have had to move fast to survive amid the volatile
climate at present.
On the regulatory front, the Department of Conservation,
permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals and
political lobby group Straterra are all involved in a variety
of topical presentations.
• Simon Hartley will be hosted at the conference by