Miner delegates give environmentalist good hearing

A panel of environmentalists put forward their views at the New Zealand branch of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy's annual meeting yesterday in Rotorua.

The panel included members from the Department of Conservation, Environmental Defence Society, Forest and Bird and the Pew Foundation, with a right of reply taken by panel initiator and pro-mining political lobby group Straterra.

Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell pulled no punches in saying mining was "destructive of [conservation] values", and he saw only "desolation" at Solid Energy's Stockton mine on the West Coast, with remedial, rehabilitation work "laughable".

The more than 200 of 300 attending delegates who listened gave Mr Hackwell a good hearing.

He said mining might be valued at $1 billion to the economy, but he had estimates the negative effect on tourism was a similar figure, or 1% of GDP.

"We have got to see and have this debate, with more transparency on the costs and benefits," he said.

While the Government wants to underpin economic recovery with the resource sector, its proposed changes on royalty payments, tax, compliance and regulatory issues are of mounting concern to the mining sector, which is already facing huge increases in production costs.

The managers of several big mining companies spoken to after the presentation agreed more consistency and transparency was needed.

Several said the Government had to do better than pass legislation by just one vote.

• Simon Hartley is hosted at the conference by AusIMM.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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