Mining activity undertaken without consent

Hawkeswood Mining Ltd is seeking resource consent to mine for gold on the edge of the Clutha...
Hawkeswood Mining Ltd is seeking resource consent to mine for gold on the edge of the Clutha River to the northwest of Millers Flat. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The proponent behind a major mine near the Clutha River had already been undertaking activity in the area without a consent.

Hawkeswood Mining Ltd has applied to establish and operate an alluvial gold-mining operation in a rural resource area at 1346-1536 Teviot Rd, Millers Flat, Roxburgh.

The proposal will go to a hearing, but a Central Otago District Council spokeswoman confirmed activity was already happening near the planned mine without a consent.

The Otago Daily Times photographed the activity several months ago.

"The activity shown in the photo is currently going through the consenting process. The hearing for this is scheduled for May 13-14," the CODC spokeswoman said.

A council report said the applicant had already undertaken significant earthworks on the site for the purpose of establishing the internal access ways, bunding and establishing a test pit.

"Earthworks that have been undertaken are included in the total earthworks quantities proposed in the application. Earthworks within the test pit have totalled 5118cu m, exceeding the district plan allowance by 2118cu m.

"Retrospective consent is sought for these works as part of this application."

Hawkeswood Mining spokesman Simon Johnstone said he accepted this.

"The earthworks volumes we exceeded by is pretty much minimal, and was pretty easy to trip over.

"There was a slight breach, and yes we were responsible."

Planning reports from the CODC and the Otago Regional Council recommended the proposal not go ahead.

Mr Johnstone was not surprised by the CODC planning report’s recommendations.

"I think the culture has been pretty entrenched there for several years."

There were more than 470 submissions on the proposal, and "about 97%" were in favour of it, he said.

"It is evident we have received overwhelming support from the community. We have been heartened by the offers of assistance and solidarity in the past few days," he said.

There had also been offers to approach Minister for Resources Shane Jones about the situation, he said.

"That aside, we’re not too concerned about the way the project is tracking."

Mr Jones said he was unwilling to get "into the weeds" of a "single live application".

However, he noted Ngāi Tahu (which is referred to as Kāi Tahu in southern parts of the South Island) and its concerns had to be taken on board legally.

Kāi Tahu submitted it was concerned about the environmental impact of the proposal and said Hawkeswood had not taken into account the iwi’s relationship with what was a significant cultural landscape.

Mr Jones said all mining operations "function within a social licence envelope".

"No-one is more enthusiastic for an expansion of mining-based employment, exports and receipts, but if we don’t stand up for standards that maintain the social licence, then the broader sector ends up faltering.

"I think the main point is that yes, I am an eager beaver for increased mining activity, but not at the cost of destroying the social licence."

There were already a host of "successful mining operations" in the greater area, Mr Jones said, such as the Macraes Mine.

"I think anyone wanting to join those ranks needs to ensure the quality of material passes muster and are suitably capitalised.

"You can’t do these things on the cheap and on the fly."

Asked about the retrospective nature of some of the consents, Mr Jones said it was "always a challenge to play catch-up football in a statutory process".

"It’s not impossible, but you’re not making your job any easier."

Mr Johnstone said he was more surprised about the "flip-flopping" of the ORC, in regards to its report flagging "serious" concerns from Kāi Tahu.

"All the other concerns were mitigated.

"We’ve spent the last 12 months consulting with iwi, rūnaka and Kāi Tahu. We can’t seem to get a direction or understanding of the issue.’

Ngāi Tahu declined to comment on Mr Johnstone’s assertion.

Ngāi Tahu group head strategy and engagement Jacqui Caine said "Ngāi Tahu has clearly outlined its opposition to the resource consent application of Hawkeswood Mining Ltd to mine adjacent to the Mata-au [Clutha River]".

"Hawkeswood Mining Ltd has provided insufficient information in its application.

"Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and Hokonui Rūnanga (Kā Rūnaka) recommend the application be declined."