Coromandel Still Under Threat

- Augusta Macassey-Pickard and Renee Annan

Renee Annan is the Coordinator of Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki (whose motto is “protecting the Coromandel Peninsula from mining”), Box 396, Thames 3540; mobile 0220181764; e-mail; Website

Augusta Macassey-Pickard is the Chairperson of Mercury Bay Watchdog

Although many New Zealanders believe that the public outcry in 2010 against the opening of Schedule 4 conservation estate lands* for mineral exploration resulted in widespread protection of these areas from mineral exploitation/mining, one well loved landscape in New Zealand, the Coromandel Peninsula, is being heavily targeted by mining companies. There are currently vast tracts of land either under permit, or application; however, the applications are largely confined to privately owned property, avoiding the processes required to access Schedule 4 land. This is very troubling for the many people of the Coromandel who fought long and hard throughout the late 1970s through the 1980s and finally won (they thought) protection in the late 1990s. *Schedule 4 lands are the ones with the highest conservation value in the conservation estate. Ed.

Today, there are six applications for prospecting or exploration permits pending, and a further six permits granted. Some of these applications and permits are sought by foreign owned companies – the largest and most well-known being Newmont Mining Corporation (owned out of Denver, Colorado, USA). The Newmont Mining Corporation is well known around the world, with mining interests in North America, South America, Asia, Australia and Africa. In many of these areas, Newmont has courted controversy resulting from significant environmental harm caused by their activities, including the displacement of indigenous communities, toxic chemical spills (cyanide spill in Ghana, contaminating drinking water; mercury spill in Peru), and the contracting of a private security force in Peru, which has been cited for human right violations such as excessive force and harm to citizens, one of whom was killed when the company’s goons opened fire on protestors in 2006.

Newmont Literally Undermines Waihi

Newmont has been a regular nominee in the Roger Awards (it was a finalist in 2011. Ed.) and is making international news at the moment as a state of emergency has been declared in the area of Peru it is trying to mine. Five people have been killed in protests against Newmont as they attempt to stop the company polluting their water supplies and destroying their agricultural lands. Newmont is in the process of expanding the Martha open cast mine in Waihi and applying to mine beneath the eastern side of the town, right under houses. Local residents who experience vibration and blasting effects as well as loss of property values are very concerned about this expansion but trapped in a vulnerable situation. North of Waihi Newmont is prospecting on conservation and forestry land and trying to convince locals that underground mining will have minimal impact. However the Waihi example has strengthened support for Coromandel Watchdog and local group’s opposition to Newmont. Newmont has consistently shown disregard to the integrity of Schedule 4 and plans to undermine Schedule 4 land in the Coromandel if possible. Mining can occur under Schedule 4 land if the portal comes from adjacent land which is not covered by Schedule 4.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are other - less well-known - foreign controlled companies also attempting to exploit this special region; and whilst most permits are registered to relatively young New Zealand registered companies, most of these seemingly small New Zealand companies have significant connections to large off-shore companies. For example, Hawkeswood Civil Ltd has connections with Tasman Goldfields Ltd, an Australian company; Hawkeswood was granted an exploration permit to explore 555 hectares of the Thames Coast (including part of the coastal marine area of the Firth of Thames) in early 2011.

The permit is for exploration for gold and silver deposits. The granting of this permit is worrying for a number of reasons, including the potential environmental impact of mining activities on both the already struggling Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, and the wetland areas of Miranda. Another permit has been submitted encompassing 3.92 km2 of the coastal marine area of the Coromandel Harbour. This permit was lodged in 2010 by Sea Group Holdings Ltd, one of whose directors is also Managing Director and Chief Executive of New Zealand Oil and Gas.

Heritage is an Australian mining company which has a permit to mine in the Karangahake Gorge. Heritage is well known since the 1980s in the Coromandel for mining the stock market, but it may well be on the verge of actual mining in this beautiful historic area. Renison Consolidated Mines is an Australian company which owns two very large exploration permits in southern Coromandel covering around 25,000 hectares. It mines coal and gold in New South Wales and has its’ eye on exploration in the southern end of the Coromandel Ranges.

Coromandel People Need All The Help They Can Get

The situation is pretty simple. The price of gold makes a massive expansion in mining activity of all kinds viable. The current Government is the best facilitator of foreign mining investment for a century. Coromandel remains one of the most highly prospective areas in the country and once again it is up to the residents to stand up for our land. We know many New Zealanders support us but after 30 years of activism we need as much economic and political support as we can get. The mining industry has better public relations and marketing than in the 1980s but the risks of mining and the rip off of our future wellbeing remains the same as it ever was.


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