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Following the $2.6million clean-up of New Zealand’s most contaminated mine site, at Waiuta, the Department of Conservation has applied for consents to also tackle the nearby Alexander River site.
The remote hard-rock gold mine operated between 1924 and 1943 and included an ore roasting plant similar to the one at Waiuta Prohibition Mine, about 60km northeast of Greymouth.
Doc said there was significant arsenic, mercury and cyanide contamination of the soil.The Alexander River site, about 10km from Waiuta, is on a flood plain, and if the river changes course toxic material could be washed downstream.
The proposed clean-up would take about 16 weeks. The most contaminated soil would be put in barrels and transported to Christchurch.Doc said it wanted to maintain the historic relics on site, especially the Edwards roaster, which was the most intact of its type.
The Waiuta clean-up took from August to November, resulting in the removal of 96 barrels of arsenic-contaminated material.
Lesser contaminated materials were placed in a low-lying area on the site and then lined with mullock, the waste rock from the mine excavations. The Waiuta remediation was jointly funded by Doc and the Ministry for the Environment’s contaminated sites remediation fund, which will also pay for the work at Alexander River.