Job prospects dominate mine hearing

The proposed mine site at Millers Flat. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The proposed mine site at Millers Flat. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The suggested benefits to the local community fronted discussions at the first day of a gold mining consent hearing, held in Millers Flat yesterday.

Hawkeswood Mining Ltd was seeking consent to establish and operate an alluvial gold mine in a rural resource area at Millers Flat, near Roxburgh.

Consents were required from the Otago Regional Council and the Central Otago District Council.

About 40 experts, staff, spectators and submitters were at the hearing, held in front of commissioners Ros Day-Cleavin, of Dunedin, Chairwoman Louise Taylor, of Dunedin, and Craig Welsh, of Nelson.

Hawkeswood Mining director Andrew Hawkeswood told commissioners the proposed mining activity would generate significant contributions to the local economy.

Mr Hawkeswood said based on his previous mining operations, the Millers Flat gold mine was expected to add $90 million to the wider New Zealand economy, $28m of which would be local employment and royalty payments.

In the past three years, the operation had employed between four and 14 fulltime employees and, if the consent was granted, would require up to 25 fulltime positions.

Andrew Hawkeswood
Andrew Hawkeswood
"We intend to fill 90% of the employment positions from the local and wider Millers Flat community," Mr Hawkeswood said.

When asked by Mr Walsh, Mr Hawkeswood said he considered local employment to be anywhere from Dunedin to Alexandra, and possibly as far as Queenstown.

"We actually prefer to have local [workers], because then we don’t have to provide accommodation — we don’t want to be fly in, fly out," Mr Hawkeswood said.

"We will take people from Queenstown, but they would have to stay here during the week ... there’s a couple of guys who come from Cromwell now."

Ms Taylor noted the proposed local employment rate was a reason many submitters supported the mining activity.

Mr Hawkeswood currently lives near Auckland, but said he would move to the area if the project went ahead.

Ms Day-Cleavin asked about the types of skills the operation would require and if the local workforce could provide them.

The operation needed a mix of general skills and "semi-specialist" skills, Mr Hawkeswood said.

"Probably 60% specialty, 40% general."

While he was confident general skills could be taught, "there is a small bit of uncertainty just about specialist [skills]", he said.

The commissioners also heard evidence from Hawkeswood Mining operations manager Simon Johnstone, several expert witnesses supporting the applicants, and the Millers Flat Water Company.

The hearing is set to continue today, when commissioners will hear from submitters, council planners and the applicant’s right of reply.