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Minister declines Coromandel mining bid

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage did not approve OceanaGold's purchase of farmland next to the Waihi mine. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Doubts are being raised about the future of mining in Coromandel after the Overseas Investment Office declined a mining company's bid to buy land for expansion.

The Australia-based company OceanaGold applied to buy farmland in Waihi next to its gold mine so it could dump mine tailings.

The purchase needed the approval of two ministers, and while the Associate Finance Minister David Clark approved the plan, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage did not, meaning the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) was forced to decline the application.

OceanaGold's senior community advisor Kit Wilson says the decision risked its future in the North Island region.

"There's limited capacity for expansion which therefore means that jobs would have to be called into question after 2028," Kit says.

"At the present time we have got plenty to keep us busy for the next 10 years, but certainly we will have to look at where to from here."

Kit says the company was considering a judicial review of the decision.

Chief executive of the minerals industry organisation Straterra, Chris Baker, says the declined application put the economy at risk too.

"Export revenue in the order of $200 million to $300m per year ... is at stake," Chris says.

He says Minister Sage's decision would scare off other investors.

"[Investors] will look at this decision and consider that the sovereign risk they face in investing in New Zealand has changed for the worse, significantly."

Chris says other mining companies operating here were "alarmed" by the decision.

Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga says the decision showed a blatant disregard for the 360 Waihi mine workers and their families.

"For something so critical to the economic well-being of this district to be tossed out on a political whim like this is completely unpalatable to me."

Eugenie says she and David had different views on what was substantial and identifiable benefits of the land purchase, which is what the law required them to agree on.

She says she did not believe using productive farmland to establish a long-term tailing reservoir of mining waste would lead to such benefits.

-RNZ/Madison_Reidy

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Hard one.

Posted on 09-05-2019 10:56 | By morepork

We know we have to clean up the Environment and this expansion was for dumping waste, not further exploration. 360 families having solid work for 10 years, is pretty great but should it be at the cost of the environment? You’d think that knowing a job will last for 10 years is enough to plan ahead and even retrain for something else if necessary. In this day and age it is pretty normal for people to be mobile in search of work. I believe the Minister took a hard decision, but, overall, it is the right one.