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A Canadian-owned platinum exploration company has been awarded five, five-year South Island permits, including two covering 168sq km northwest of Invercargill.
The Longwood Range near Invercargill has for decades been of interest to miners, mainly for its platinum potential but also for gold. Platinum work has never gone beyond exploration.
Lynx, the only tenderer announced, has three permits covering 355sq km near Murchison and the permits near Invercargill and intends initially spending about $3 million over the first three years in exploration, and potentially a further $4.5 million in the following two years, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement yesterday.
The Government had opened the platinum block tender round in March last year. It closed in April after consultation with iwi, local councils and the Department of Conservation (Doc).
''These permits present an exciting opportunity for the Tasman and Southland regions, and constitute the most significant new minerals exploration activity in New Zealand by one company in several years,'' Mr Bridges said.
Platinum, which on the global market was selling for $US1476 ($NZ1716) an ounce yesterday, has only once been been mined commercially, from 1897-1907 in Orepuki in Southland, and produced 47kg. About 80,000 ounces of gold was taken near Longwood in the late 1800s.
Government permit agency New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals has identified the Longwood Range as being the ''most prospective'' area for platinum group metals, which include palladium and iridium.
The tender process included assessment of Lynx's financial and technical capability, and its ability to meet health, safety and environmental requirements, Mr Bridges said.
Access must be negotiated with land owners and mitigating environmental impacts be agreed with Doc. Lynx has to comply with local council requirements under the Resource Management Act and seek a mining permit.
Lynx Platinum is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coronado Resources Ltd, a Canadian exploration and development, power generation and retailing company.
Tag Oil Ltd, a Canadian petroleum operator, has oil and gas wells in Taranaki and a 49% stake in Coronado.