Diatomite promoter hits back

Foulden Maar near Middlemarch. Photo: Kimberley Collins
Foulden Maar near Middlemarch. Photo: Kimberley Collins
The company behind the diatomite mine near Middlemarch has hit back at claims it is misleading the public about the project.

Opposition to Australian company Plaman Resource's plan to mine up to 500,000 tonnes of diatomite from its Foulden Hill site has grown since a confidential report by investment bank Goldman Sachs was leaked to the Otago Daily Times.

Following the leak, both Dunedin South MP Clare Curran and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull requested an urgent explanation from the company about discrepancies between its official statements and information in the report.

The report suggests the quality of the mineral at the site was of low commercial value so the mine would only be commercially viable if full production forecasts were met.

Emails sent to Ms Curran from Plaman New Zealand general manager Craig Pilcher reject claims the diatomite was low quality and the complete fossil record within the internationally significant Foulden Maar would be lost.

The company has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the ODT.

Testing of the diatomite found in the mine, which is trademarked as Black Pearl, found it was of a high quality and suitable as a high-value feed additive, Mr Pilcher said.

The company was committed to finding a solution which allowed continued access to the fossil site and expected the issue would be addressed through the resource management process.

The Geoscience Society of New Zealand, which previously told the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) mining at the site would help expose new scientific information, has now implored the Government and the Dunedin City Council to stop the mine.

Mr Pilcher also outlined company plans to buy back Malaysian company Iris Corporation Berhad shares. It has been linked to the Malaysian palm oil industry.

Plaman has confirmed to the OIO it would not knowingly sell Black Pearl to any palm-oil producer, he said.

Ms Curran said she was pleased the company had clarified the situation and it would provide much-needed balance to the public debate.

She did not ''back'' the project but rather supported the proper process being followed which would also allow Middlemarch community concerns to be heard.

When asked if she still had concerns about some comments made in the leaked report, particularly about any local opposition being poorly resourced, Ms Curran said it was not something she could comment on.

''Resource consent processes need to take their course and I cannot comment on how they might fall.''

Mr Cull said he had received a company offer to meet and discuss the concerns raised in his letter. He would accept if the timing was right as there needed to be answers as soon as possible.



The argument is in danger of becoming how much can be mined while allowing access for scientific research (to be decided by the Resource Consent hearing), rather than how can we turn this into a Scientific Reserve that excludes the possibility of mining so that it can be excavated in a more systematic way by geologists, which seems the more appropriate solution.

It's a mining company and if mining companies didn't lie they would never be allowed to operate. Add to that the fact it's an Australian Mining company and you know that lying to them is a religion, they will lie even when the truth wouldn't be a problem.

Did my eyes really read this, "The Geoscience Society of New Zealand, which previously told the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) mining at the site would help expose new scientific information" ? ODT, please find out who represents the Geoscience Society of New Zealand and what he or she was thinking. It is a scandalous opinion to give the OIO. They have a poor record of protecting NZ's interests, preferring to sell off NZ's assets when money is waved in front of their faces and jobs are promised as further inducement.