Foulden Maar's developer defends mining diatomite

A co-founder of the Australian company behind the controversial mining proposal near Middlemarch says scientists will still be allowed to access the internationally significant fossil site.

Growing opposition to Plaman Resources' plan to mine up to 500,000 tonnes of diatomite a year from its Foulden Maar site has led to one of the company's co-founders to speak out in defence of the proposal.

The company's chief executive Peter Plakadis says the public lacks the full story and it was never the company's intention to remove all the diatomite, which contains significant fossil specimens, from the site.

Mr Plakadis founded the company in 2014 with chief financial officer Geordie Manolas

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Plakadis said access for scientists would continue and it was likely a 5ha section of the site would be set aside for fossil exploration.

The Otago Daily Times has repeatedly asked Plaman Resources for comment and questions have been sent to Mr Plakadis which were not answered by deadline yesterday.

Mr Plakadis told RNZ he was surprised at the negative reaction to the plan for the mine which the company had owned since 2015.

The company applied to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) in February last year for approval to buy 432ha of farmland surrounding the mine, which would significantly expand the operation.

Testing showed about 80% of the maar was located on the 42ha the company already owned and the rest was located under the surrounding farm, he said.

He also confirmed if the application was successful the company would buy back a 50.9% stake held by Malaysian company Iris Corporation Berhad which has been linked to the Malaysian palm oil industry.

If the application was approved by Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage and Associate Finance Minister David Clark there would be extensive public consultation with the affected communities, he said.

In a statement yesterday the OIO said the more-complex-than-average Plaman application was still being considered.

People were still able to make a submission on the application. Anyone who had made a submission could withdraw it and resubmit a fresh one.

Until a decision is made the office could not comment further.

A petition to save the entire maar from mining has been signed by more than 7000 people since it was launched last week.


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