Another Tailings Dam (Impoundment) at Waihi? No thanks!

We were very pleased and relieved to learn recently that Minister of Lands, Eugenie Sage, had declined an application by Oceana Gold to purchase more than 170 hectares of land to support its mysterious ‘Project Quattro’, and to house a new tailings facility. The Minister declined it under the Overseas Investment Act for a range of reasons, in part relating to the unsustainability of the proposal, and the fact that it would tie up valuable NZ farmland for an indefinite period of time, far exceeding any proposed mining activity.

The Minister also quite rightly pointed to the extremely high input use of the Industry and the associated impacts on climate change. Other reasons related to the lack of new jobs created, the lack of tangible benefits in the longer term, the comparatively low returns both for workers and for NZ and the effects on the town from the existing operation i.e. high unemployment, low median income etc. All very sound economic rationale for declining such a purchase.

We were then very disappointed to hear of the Oceana Gold application for a Judicial Review of the Minister of Land Information’s decision to reject their purchase of rural land for a tailings dump. This company really seems to operate under a policy of ‘don’t get our own way, then lets litigate!”. Having previously sued the government of El Salvador (and lost, being ordered to pay them $8mil, which they still haven’t paid), they are now before the Courts in the Philippines, and about to go before the court in NZ. That means the only country they are not actively fighting a government to be allowed to mine is the US.

In our context, Oceana should read NZ law, then they would know that the Minister is required under our law to consider adverse environmental effects on rural land. She is doing her duty under the law. Right now we need to focus on sustainable development – protect food producing land and water quality – rather than sacrifice more land to the toxic waste which is the consequence of gold mining. 

This is the second time a Minister has been subject to Judicial Review with regard to mining. Then Minister of Conservation, Helen Clark was judicially reviewed for rejecting an underground mining application in the Forest Park at Waiomu in the Hauraki/Coromandel in the late 1980s, her decision withstood this legal challenge, as we expect this one will too. Oceana has a very cynical approach to our (and the other coutries in which it operates) laws, we must support our Govt in standing against them.