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Who wins from digging up Coromandel

Written By: - Date published: 10:42 am, November 27th, 2009 - 17 comments
Categories: Environment - Tags:

Gerry Brownlee is talking of digging up Coromandel to extract a few tens of millions of dollars worth of gold. Naturally, the company that owns the Waihi mine is all for it.

The local community gets little benefit from mining. According to the 2006 census, unemployment in Waihi is twice the national average (8.3% at the time, compared to 4% nationally) and the median income was just $15,000 compared to $26,000 nationally.

waihi mineThe local community does bear the costs. There’s the physical damage to the landscape, despite the claims to the contrary. Not only does Waihi have a whooping great hole in the ground, which will be hazard for decades, but collapses over mining tunnels have resulted in 46 houses being condemned. Not to mention the noise, dust, and vibrations that lower the quality of life in Waihi.

Meanwhile, the foreign-owned company makes off like bandits only a relatively small number of jobs are created. Then they leave the locals to clean up the mess.

The people of Coromandel united to prevent further mining in the 1980s. Their feelings haven’t changed since. They know that their natural environment is far more valuable than the scrappings they would get from letting someone from overseas come in, dig up their land, and take away the gold.

It’s a pity that this government only understands the value of gold, and not the value of a natural environment to the local community. I think the people of Coromandel will be teaching them that lesson the hard way.

17 comments on “Who wins from digging up Coromandel”

  1. The critics say that it will be done in a “sensitive and environmentally sustainable way”.

    This has echoes of child beaters wanting the right to beat their kids in a “loving and caring way”.

  2. factchecker 2

    what do you make of this from a 2005 NZIER report about mining in Waihi?

    “There is little doubt that Newmont contributes significantly to Waihi both in economic and social terms. Gold Ore Mining is second only to Supermarkets in terms of the share of total Waihi employment in 2004, representing around 7.5% of total headcount employment. We estimate that for the year ending March 2004, Waihi GDP (value added) was around $105 million. The mining sector is the largest sector in value added terms in the Waihi economy, generating nearly 27% of the local economy’s value added. While only a fraction of the amount of GDP apportioned to mining would actually be represented by spending in the economy, this is still substantial in the context of a relatively small economy.”

    It’s on their website at http://www.marthamine.co.nz/PDF/NZIER_Report_Mar_05.pdf

    • snoozer 2.1

      key phrase: “While only a fraction of the amount of GDP apportioned to mining would actually be represented by spending in the economy”

      ie. most of the money goes overseas

    • Armchair Critic 2.2

      A report commissioned by the mining company, with a scope set by the mining company and undertaken by an organisation whose sympathies lie naturally with the mining company comes out with – shock, horror – a report that is very supportive of the mining company. Who would have guessed?

  3. Peter Wilson 3

    I can also advise that there are serious plans afoot to remove large areas of Kahurangi, Mt Aspiring, and Fiordland National Parks and mine them as well. The government is currently consulting selectively with some people prior to releasing the full details in February.

  4. 350ppm 4

    The ‘hole in the ground’ amounts to less than half the physical extent of the mining operation at Waihi (map) http://bit.ly/Waihi

    Even with John Key’s “surgical” mining techniques (frontal lobotomy anyone?), the tailings have to go somewhere…

  5. collette 5

    newmont win neighbours lose here in Waihi there is no doubt. Someone is paid a lot of money to tell neighbours the activities annoying them are within consent and could not be because of the 300mtr deep hole adjacent to their property. 300 homes on trademe for sale in Waihi, less than ten in neighbouring towns, many brought here based on the info available to them at the time, unfortunately info changes too often in a mining town to make informed decisions we have discovered over the past 10 years, luckily new disclosure laws for real estate agents will help new buyers, but will disadvantage any mine impacted homes that are for sale, who in their right mind would buy one? some prefer to think talking about the issue is more dangerous that the offending issue itself, others think not telling people the truth has contributed to many residents problems here ,, how can one prove the mine has put a buyer off if the buyers wont consider the area in the first place???
    The mine pit is unstable, works to fix it will continue while the financial viability of new projects locally are also being explored and ore may also be processed in Waihi from within a 100km radius . Our 2km long, several story high tailings dams have no little or no covering over the dusty tailings leaving them free to travel over our community with the wind. I have no reason to disbelieve Newmont when they claim this is the cleanest mine site in the world but our community are not satisfied they have really done all that they could here to ensure we do not unnecessarily suffer as a result of their operations.. EW, HDC, MOH even the govt. appear powerless or unwilling to help the residents as all data is collected by NWG and no data ever shows any significant issues, apparently all kinds of people in Waihi lie or exaggerate their concerns re. noise, dust etc according to inquiries..that neighbours dont ring and complain daily does not mean the issues have disappeared . 40million dollars per week was apparently lost by NWG when the mine was shut recently a few dollars here and there locally is peanuts compared to what they take from homeowners who do not benefit from the mine. Current policy is not to buy homes effected, one owner received a cheque for $50 as compensation for his past 6mths of mine impacts, the average payment made to some residents was $150,,naturally he and many others would have preferred the peace, quiet and security of having no mine operations adjacent to their homes. In a town with average income of $15,000 per year we are disadvantaged and cannot afford to get legal or technical advice despite the fact “we” are sitting on a gold mine, Jerry Brownlee wants to increase royalties instead of considering decreasing them so as communities like ours can create some jobs so our communities do not come to “rely” on handouts from a benevolent industry, perhaps then people could be a bit more open about the mine and its effects, for now they have to stay quiet incase “funding or potential business opportunities” are lost as a result of their honesty.

  6. Rex Widerstrom 6

    I’m going to leave aside the debate about the environment in this comment. To some extent it stands as a separate issue: even were substantial economic benefits to be returned to the local community, there are some (many?) who wouldn’t want the environmental damage which inevitably follows. That’s their right and not something I’m in any position to argue against.

    As with most issues, I’d have the matter put to the people affected for a vote, and the outcome would be binding.

    However, while Waihi is indeed an economic disaster for local people, it doesn’t have to be.

    Newmont operates gold mines at Boddington and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. (to give some idea of scale, Boddington, which is new, is estimated to be worth $3.4 billion).

    With the exception of those concerned about environmental issues, my impression is that most people feel the operations have a positive impact.

    Newmont has formal agreements with the indigenous peoples providing for training and jobs as well as financial recompense.

    It is made to be conscious of its need to be a good corporate citizen and so supports initiatives such as the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, that will research solutions to key issues relevant to Australian desert environments such as natural resource management, community viability, delivery of health and education services, governance and integrated regional business systems.

    It also has some fairly stringent environmental targets to meet (though again I would acknowledge there are those who would say they are not stringent enough) including repairing and replanting the land.

    The people employed on Newmont’s sites are very well paid and local businesses boom, including a myriad of sub contractors. House and rental prices tend to be ridiculously high (but affordable by those on high wages, and to the delight of any locals selling up).

    And lastly (because I’m trying to keep this brief) the WA Government imposes a royalty of (I think) 5.62% on what comes out of the ground. This is in addition to other state taxes (payroll etc) and federal company taxes the company has to pay.

    This all happens because Australian governments do know the worth of what they have. Rightly or wrongly, they’re prepared to trade the environment, though imposing monitoring and some degree of protection, for jobs, taxes and community investment.

    New Zealand, on the other hand, tends to say to foreign investors “we’re honoured you’d even consider us. Here, take what you need and we’ll hope you don’t funnel your activities through the Cook Islands or someplace so we don’t see any tax. If you make a mess, we’re obliged to ask you to make a token effort to clean up, but other than that, are our trousers low enough or would you like us to take them off altogether?”

    People may still reject mining these sites if the miner were forced to upskill young Maori and provide them jobs, to invest in community projects and to pay useful amounts of money to local and national government for the privilege.

    But how I wish we had a government with the testicular fortitude to impose those sorts of conditions, and then allow people to choose.

    • BLiP 6.1

      Good post, thanks.

      Yes, if you are going to mine the Coromandel, then ensure that all the benefits, short term and long term, belong to Aotearoa. Of course, we’re dreaming; National Ltd® see fair wages, good conditions, returns to the community, as costs to be eliminated. Equally worrying, is the manufactured sense of urgency and the possibility the it will all be in the bag, done and dusted before the whole matter is properly considered.

      Roger Douglas writes almost coherently about the need to adopt a “blitzkrieg” approach to radical change – what else is in store, I wonder?

      • Jared 6.1.1

        If we want the benefits to remain in NZ we best be sure a NZ company is the one behind the digger. I personally have no objections with international companies mining in NZ, I have concerns with mining on conservation land, but this whole “it must be a nz company” attitude behind investments is just head in the sand bullshit. Afaik the collapsed tunnels were a by product of mining in the early 1900s not from Newmont also.

      • prism 6.1.2

        “Equally worrying, is the manufactured sense of urgency and the possibility the it will all be in the bag, done and dusted before the whole matter is properly considered.”
        That term manufactured sense of urgency really sizes the situation up. It seems that Nats are becoming adept at talking up crises so that they can swing draconian policies claiming TINA. It worked for the ACT brigade and we now seem stuck with it, its destroying democracy with no cool deliberation from parliament – everything in a ferment.

  7. vto 7

    where in NZ do you think would be an acceptable place to mine?

    • vto 7.1

      what? Has nobody got an answer to that simple question?

      • felix 7.1.1

        Mine what?

        At what cost?

        For the benefit of whom?

        Maybe if you ask a meaningful question you’ll get a response. And be specific, please – saying “for the benefit of thu ucunumy” means nothing.

      • Armchair Critic 7.1.2

        You are inviting a big long response to properly answer the question, vto. My short answer is that there are plenty of places in NZ that I think would be acceptable for mining.
        Most of NZ is not conservation estate, and that is what the issue is about – mining on the conservation estate doesn’t sit well with me.

  8. Tui Mine near te Aroha abandoned tailings dam leaching nasties into stream … 600,000 cubic metres. New Zealand’s most toxic waste dump. Cost to NZ taxpayer to clean up at least $10 million.

    Waihi’s Martha Mine tailings dam …40 million cubic metres of toxic waste which must be contained for infinity and must never leak thru its clay liner (yes thats right clay liner )

    So Tui Mine tailings are about 1.5% the size of the Martha Mine. Cost to NZ taxpayer when it leaks ? (most likely after Newmont Gold has picked up its “bond” and has buggered off)

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