Attempts made to protect 'sacred' New Zealand mountain after prospectors find huge seam of gold

'This is public land which has been set aside to protect its ecological values and for recreation'

Sophie Christian
Tuesday 18 July 2017 16:58 BST
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New Zealand, North Island, Waikato, Karangahake Gorge, suspension bridge over Waitawheta River
New Zealand, North Island, Waikato, Karangahake Gorge, suspension bridge over Waitawheta River (Rex/Shutterstock)

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Conservation land deemed "sacred" to an indigenous people of New Zealand’s North Island is at the heart of a stalemate between an anti-mining group and the company New Talisman Gold Mines after a seam of high-quality gold was discovered last week.

The company declared it had discovered over 8,500kg of gold at its Dubbo site in the Karangahake Gorge, located between the Coromandel and Kaimai ranges. It is at the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula.

The gold is set to be worth tens of millions of New Zealand dollars. Matthew Hill, the company’s chief executive, stated: “The grades that have come out show 21 grams a tonne which in today’s terms one of the top five or certainly one of the top ten in the world.”

New Talisman Gold Mines intends to begin bulk sampling the gold next year. The company’s board will decide from the results what the next step is and whether to mine in the area or not.

Protect Karangahake, an environmental group, expressed concerns for the consequences the mining project would have on the environment.

“The Conservation estate is important. It’s precious for New Zealand and it’s not to be divided and sold off for [the] gold mining industry because they will do nothing but destroy it.

“As we know in the past in Karangahake they devastate the area once the mining starts.”

On 17 July, 30 protesters blocked the mining company from accessing the site for an hour and a half. The conservation group explained they were now doubling their efforts to protect Karangahake Gorge.

Duncan Shearer, head of the environmental group, described their protests: “Sometimes [we go] walking up the mountain track, holding up the vehicles to enjoy the beautiful view. Sometimes we’re doing these big protests that get arranged at quite short notice.”

The Crown, Talisman and Woodstock batteries at the lower end of the gorge are reminders that this area once experienced mining from the 1880s to 1950s. It is currently legal to mine on conservation land if approved by the government and local council, as well as receiving permission from the department of conservation.

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty criticised the company’s plans to mine on the Karangahake Gorge, telling the Guardian: “This is public land which has been set aside to protect its ecological values and for recreation. It is a sacred mountain to the indigenous people of the area and local residents are actively and peacefully opposing the initial development of the mining activity on the mountain.”

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