Mining By Stealth in Coromandel Forest Park

Oceana Gold has quietly released their plan to build a 6.8km tunnel under primarily high value conservation land at Wharekirauponga, an area of dense native bush habitat, home to the world’s most endangered frog, Archey’s frogs, in the Coromandel Forest Park, above Parakiwai at Whangamata.

This area of the Forest Park is highly regarded by recreational users, as well as being significant habitat for a range of native species. /photo Chris Pryor

To create a tunnel the mining company will need to blast under the forest, creating risks for the frogs, which international research has shown can affect their reproduction. Oceana say that the tunnel is only for exploration purposes, although it will require a four hectare (almost 10 acres) rock storage stockpile built to 15m above natural topography and 5 ventilation shafts, each with a footprint of 5mx5m. The tunnel will also require dewatering – the taking of water from the groundwater system which will affect streams and water above ground.

This project is clearly mining by stealth, it’s undermining conservation land while the Government breaks their promise to protect it. The tunnel is not exploration, it is mining infrastructure being built under false pretenses.

The company has been drilling holes in this area for some years, despite opposition from the local community, who are worried about the impacts on freshwater, including the aquifers that Whangamata take their town supply from, and concerns from the conservation community about the impacts on the environment, including the frogs as well as climate impacts from the tons of carbon emitted in these processes. 

Exploration drilling 2017 photo/Geoff Reid

The public has a right to know that an area of high conservation value is about to be undermined by a multinational company and to understand that the frogs, the water table and water supply will be affected so that Oceana can make a profit. These days, we have viable alternatives to hard rock gold mining. We can extract gold from e waste. What this is, actually, is the first of the activities they [Oceana] need to get the mine they want to develop in this area over the line, and we simply don’t need it.

Earlier this year, the company exchanged their exploration permits in the area for a mining permit from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. This area has the highest ecological value in the Southern Coromandel Forest Park and contains priority ecosystems, threatened species and is the headwater of a major catchment. 

Approximation of tunnel location, under Forest Park/conservation land. Top blue area 60451 is the mining permit at Wharekirauponga, bottom blue area 41808 is Waihi mining area.
Source: NZ Petroleum and Minerals website

The impacts of allowing this activity here are far too many to justify the comparatively meagre financial benefits for Aotearoa. It may make more money for a foreign company, but will come at great cost to Aotearoa. Watchdog will be supporting concerned families from Willows Rd in Waihi where the tunnel is proposed to start, people in Whangamata very concerned about the forest park and water quality and communities around the rest of the Hauraki Coromandel, who are worried about the precedent this would set. We will take every opportunity to fight this development and let people who love the Hauraki forests know what is happening. If DOC and Govt will not protect these precious places we have to try our best.