Gold mine would set benchmark

Terry Emmitt.
Terry Emmitt.
A large-scale gold mine proposed near Roxburgh will not only be economically viable, it will set the benchmark for best-practice environmental mining and rehabilitation, its developer says.

The first day of a hearing into the resource consents for an alluvial gold mine at Coal Creek was held in Alexandra yesterday Kokiri Lime Co Ltd owner Mack Ferguson outlined his company's "proven track record'' and other witnesses covered issues such as measures to suppress the dust from the venture, rehabilitating the land and the effect on water supplies.

The joint hearing, covering applications to the Central Otago District Council and the Otago Regional Council, is before independent commissioners David Clarke, of Arrowtown, Terry Emmitt, of Bannockburn, and Brent Cowie, of Christchurch.

David Clarke.
David Clarke.
The district council's planning consultant, David Whitney, and the regional council's resource consents officer, Ralph Henderson, have both recommended consent be granted, subject to conditions.

A total of 27 submissions were received by the councils, 18 opposing the plans, two in support, six neutral and one not indicating any stance.

The mine would cover 163ha of land now used for pastoral farming or horticulture and would employ up to 10 people.

Eight of the 19 landowners involved have approved the plans.

Mr Ferguson agreed to set aside $24,350 for a Coal Creek amenity fund, for cycle and walking trail maintenance, any other recreational facilities in the area, or activities that benefited the Coal Creek community.

Brent Cowie.
Brent Cowie.
He objected to paying a "double-bond'' to both the district and regional councils as a condition of gaining consents, instead offering to provide a single bond of $960,000 as a guarantee the rehabilitation would be up to standard, monitoring would be done as instructed and to remedy any adverse effect on the environment.

Kokiri was a family company and had been involved in alluvial goldmining operations in the South Island since 1997, complying with all regulations and requirements, he said.

Mining at Coal Creek would be carried out for about 15 years.

Several submitters asked how economically viable the project would be and a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers said the economics of the operation were "robust''.

Other submitters were concerned at the potential loss of production from orchards in the mine path.

Those properties could not be mined unless the owners gave permission and then it would only affect part of the property.

The potential loss of productivity should be weighed up against the employment opportunities created by the mine, Mr Ferguson said.

Hydrogeologist Tom Heller, addressed issues about continuity of water supply and the effect on the aquifer and groundwater quality and said any problems could be mitigated.

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