Help PMA grow | Petition forms | Site map | PMA main page
Wellington, what's on very soon
27 August 2001
TODAY, Monday 27 August
TOMORROW, Tuesday, 28 August
Two rallies in parliament grounds:
Media release from the organisers of Tuesday's rally in support of Sandra Lee
Decision on Macraes' Mine Environmental Common Sense
Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee's decision to decline consent to GRD Macraes' mining access application is environmental common sense, Forest and Bird says.
GRD Macraes Ltd sought access to 550 ha of Victoria Conservation Park near Reefton for its proposed hard rock gold mine.
"The Minister's decision is the only sensible one, both environmentally and financially. It reduces the ongoing environmental risks and financial costs to the Crown and West Coast ratepayers of managing New Zealand's largest toxic waste site in perpetuity," Forest and Bird field officer, Eugenie Sage said.
"Siting 13 million tonnes of tailings, contaminated with a toxic cocktail or arsenic, cyanide and heavy metals, in steep country with a high rainfall and with 12 earthquake faults within 50 km would be asking for trouble," she said.
"Hard rock gold mining is "dirty development" which the West Coast is moving beyond with its current tourism growth. "Tailings dumps have a poor safety record with four major failures in tailings dams in 2000 alone in the United States, Sweden and Romania. The mine's main tailings dam (Devils Creek) would have been New Zealand's second largest earth/rock dam after Benmore and higher than the Clyde Dam. It would have been double the size of Coromandel's Golden Cross/Waitekauri mine.
"The Minister's decision recognises the mine's devastating environmental impacts. It would have obliterated forest and wildlife habitat over at least 290 ha of the park and exposed a nationally outstanding river system (the Buller) to major pollution problems from acid mine drainage, and seepage or subsidence in the tailings dumps."
"In the middle of an energy crisis it makes no sense to increase the power demand on the West Coast by more than a third," Ms Sage said. "Hard rock mining is energy intensive and the mine would have required an around the clock supply of 12 MW. Current West Coast power demand is 36 MW with local dams producing 16 MW.
"The Minister also needs to cancel the access arrangement agreed to in principle by former Conservation Minister, Denis Marshall in 1993 for a mine half the size of the company's current proposal."
"The smaller 1993 proposal is still sizeable. It involves a 35 ha pit, 50 ha waste rock stack and 22 ha tailings dump. Such a mine would have severe impacts on waterways, including the Inangahua and Buller Rivers because of the acid mine drainage and other pollution problems commonly associated with hard rock gold mining," Ms Sage said.
"The company has sought major changes to the access agreement since 1993 to increase the mine's size and impacts. Forest and Bird believes the extent of the changes and the company's inability to restore the site mean the original access agreement is invalid.
Notes to media
More than 60 % of the site is pristine beech and beech/rimu forest and has not been previously mined, contrary to statements by Buller Mayor, Pat O'Dea.
The results of a two year West Coast tourism study by Lincoln University's Tourism Department released this week shows that the West Coast has the fastest growing tourism industry in New Zealand. The study also shows that tourism growth is directly correlated with quality of the natural environment, for example the township of Ross, which has a large gold mine adjacent to the town, has the slowest economic growth.
Any loss of short term (7-10 year) mine jobs needs to be offset against the significant economic growth occurring on the West Coast, led by tourism and dairying. In June 2001 the National Bank's economic activity survey showed that that West Coast, at 3.9%, was second only to Otago in year on year growth in New Zealand. For the March 2001 quarter, the West Coast led New Zealand in retail sales and employment growth.
Contact: Eugenie Sage (03) 3666 317 (work) or (03) 3371 251 (home) or Barry Weeber phone (04) 385 7374 (work) or (025) 622-7369.