MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont under fire in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Published by MAC on 2013-05-28
Source: Statement (2013-05-24)

"Outrageously the Government has appointed...Newmont's former public relations green washing expert, as the National Manager of Minerals...in charge of issuing mining permits throughout the country. "

So comments the Coromandel Watchdog, pointing out that this is not the only threat posed to one of New Zealand's best known pristine bio reserves.

Attack On, & Undermining Of, Schedule Four Continues

Renee Annan, Update On Coromandel Watchdog Campaign

24 May 2013

The attack on Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 continues into 2013 with the granting of a permit in McGregor's Bay of the Coromandel Harbour.

The internal waters of the Coromandel Peninsula are included in Schedule Four as well as the conservation land of the Coromandel north of the Kopu-Hikuai Road, various scenic, ecological and geological areas and more recently all National Parks.

The purpose of this Schedule is to protect land that is particularly high in ecological, conservation or geological value from mining. Although it is important in my view to leave conservation land entirely out of the conversation around mining as a land use, it is useful that these specific areas have been identified and included to be protected by this Schedule.

Unfortunately the compromise in the Coromandel has meant that high value conservation land in southern Coromandel was not included and land with very high conservation and recreation values has been under permit for mineral exploration and in one case mining.

In December 2010 a permit was granted in the Kauaeranga Valley which covered Schedule Four conservation land and was the first glimpse that though the Government had backed down on the Schedule Four debate we had certainly not won the war. Legally, within certain limits, the Government can issue permits for prospecting and exploration over Schedule Four land. Any information gained from this activity would give the company and the Government leverage to have areas removed from Schedule Four protection.

But they might not even need to do that. Schedule Four land could be vulnerable to being undermined from adjacent land, and this is something Newmont Waihi Gold has said that it would do.

This risks huge industrialisation of areas meant to be under the utmost protection from just that. Since then a huge permit was granted in Eastern Coromandel from Kuaotunu south to near Tairua, covering the Mercury Bay area. This includes private land, forestry land and conservation land - which is Schedule Four.

Recent communication with the Department of Petroleum and Minerals confirmed that there is no consultation with landowners, communities or iwi required of the exploring company or the Government before granting of these permits (with the exception of iwi-owned land - then the Government must consult with the iwi). Many people in the Kauaeranga and in Mercury Bay were shocked to find that there was an exploration permit over their land.

Individual landowners still have the right to refuse access (with the exception of a company getting a court order to do minimum impact activities), but the impacts of mining in [the] area would be huge on all the surrounding landowners. Most recently a permit to explore McGregor's Bay in Coromandel Harbour was granted, following the 2011 exploration permit that was granted over water in the Firth of Thames, directly adjacent to the township.

Schedule Four land includes the "internal waters of the Coromandel Peninsula" which obviously covers both these areas. McGregor's Bay is right next to Coromandel township and is where Sea Group Holdings want to stir up the sediment from historical mining by dredging to extract gold. The community of the Coromandel has not been consulted on this. I think Sea Group Holdings will have an unexpected surge of resistance if it continues with its' proposal.

Newmont: Transnational Corporate Criminal

The other areas of Schedule Four land that have also been under permit are the Parakiwai Geological Area and the Otahu Ecological Area in the Coromandel Forest Park behind Whangamata.

All of these terrestrial permits are held by Newmont Waihi Gold, a subsidiary of Newmont Corporation based out of Colorado. Newmont has a terrible global record including the displacement of indigenous communities and spilling of toxic chemicals (cyanide spill in Ghana, mercury spill in Peru).

Its expanding projects all over the world are creating disharmony within communities, and leaving toxic legacies for future generations. But Newmont also has a terrible record here.

It was a finalist in the 2012 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Company Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The nomination stated: "At present Newmont controls not only whom it will buy out but what top ups it may decide to pay for affected properties; it has economic control of this town and its future..." (the 2012 Roger Award Judges' Report can be read online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Roger/Roger2012.pdf. Ed.).

Newmont's plans to expand under homes in Waihi are extremely distressing for Waihi residents, especially those near the proposed project Correnso. However the plans should be alarming to us all as this would be the first mine of this nature to directly undermine residential homes in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

This would be a terrifying legal precedent to any town or residence that happens to be situated near or on a resource that a transnational corporation thinks could be profitable.

Every expansion in Waihi by Newmont is a threat to the rest of the Coromandel with all the prospecting and exploration done by the company throughout the Peninsula. As it builds its' infrastructure to process more ore and store more tailings it becomes more invested in discovering viable gold deposits outside of Waihi.

Within Waihi Newmont is impacting heavily on the social wellbeing of the town. Despite feeling a strong sense of loyalty to the over 300 jobs the mine provides, residents are faced with vibration, noise, dust, property damage and loss of property values. With the proposal to continue mining and, furthermore, mine directly under homes despite advertising closure since before 2007, many residents have decided to oppose this and another consent application.

Newmont calls the project the Golden Link and it includes the Martha Exploration Project (MEP) and the new Correnso Mine (the underground mine proposed under the east side of the town). Many residents who moved to Waihi feel betrayed by the company, Council and real estate agents who did not give clear information to the residents that the mine may not be closing in the short term future.

Coromandel Watchdog is supporting the residents of Waihi who are opposing the Golden Link with a petition asking the House of Representatives to ban mining under places of residence. This has been successful to date, with over 2,000 signatures collected by February 2013 and we plan to present them and more to Parliament later in the year. The petition has also provided a platform to inform the public that this is happening, many of whom do not know that this situation could be possible. You can sign the petition at this link: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Coromandel_too_precious_to_mine

Maori & Pakeha Fight Back

The other part of our petition is to maintain and extend Schedule Four to include southern Coromandel conservation land. We are asking that the Government show real political leadership to make this Schedule what it was intended for instead of poking holes in and around it where they think we are not looking.

Outrageously the Government has appointed Sefton Darby, Newmont's former public relations green washing expert, as the National Manager of Minerals at New Zealand Minerals and Petroleum, in charge of issuing mining permits throughout the country.

This signals a move towards weaker regulation of the mineral industry, insinuating the revolving door policy of the USA where corporates become Government regulators, into New Zealand. All involved in this process fail to see any conflict of interest of having a corporation's spin doctor regulating the industry whose interests he has just been representing.

A permit granted in late 2012 was in forestry land in Manaia within the catchment of Manaia hapu, whanau and iwi. The group Nga Kaitiaki o te Awaawa o Manaia reignited with the discovery of this permit and has held two powerful and effective actions.

The owner of the company who held the permit for "hobby" purposes has offered to surrender his permit if that is really what the group wants, though he has not yet done so. This campaign was highlighted on Waitangi Day 2013 when Manaia hapu protested mining in their catchment in a brave, powerful and inspiring way.

Over 50 young people took over the busy intersection in Coromandel Town to send a message of protest and strength - Manaia is too precious to mine. They did this with a flashmob haka, blocking the road in Coromandel for five minutes and performing a haka in protest of the permit being granted in Manaia.

So we will continue to support and empower communities to stand up for their values and their land in the face of transnational mining powerhouse corporations. The successful model in Manaia will spread throughout the rest of Hauraki/Coromandel and show that the true powerhouse is with the people.

If you want to join us or give time or financial support please visit www.watchdog.org.nz/join-us or contact us on 022 018 1764 or info[at]watchdog.org.nz - any and all help is needed and appreciated, and together we can protect the Coromandel for our grandchildren's generation.


This article is published in the current issue of Foreigng Contgrol Waatchdog,published by CAFCA (Campaign against foreign control of Aeoteroa)

--

Renee Annan is Coordinator of Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki.

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info