28 Aug 2009

Mining industry welcomes unlocking of conservation land

9:57 am on 28 August 2009

The mining industry says a Government plan to unlock conservation land will kickstart minerals exploration.

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee has ordered a review of conservation areas and looser procedures for mining access to other Department of Conservation land.

It's estimated 70% of the country's mineral deposits are on land controlled by DoC.

The Minerals Industry Association says only one prospect in a 1000 ever becomes a mine.

Chief executive Doug Gordon says the Government's approach will give the industry a new lease of life.

But Mountain Clubs Federation president Rob Mitchell says many New Zealanders will be uncomfortable with diluting the value of world heritage national parks through mining activity.

The Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand says miners already have extensive powers to explore land.

Greenpeace would like the mining industry to say which areas it's interested in mining.

Geoff Keey told Morning Report that any land under the schedule is there for a reason - and not to be mined.

He said the mining industry has in the past expressed an interest in parts of Coromandel, and national parks such as Kahurangi, Paparoa and Mt Aspiring.


Mr Brownlee believes there are untapped minerals in New Zealand worth an estimated $140 billion and about 70% involves Conservation Department land.

He has asked Crown Minerals to review land that could be removed from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991. Not all Department of Conservation land is protected.

Mr Brownlee says the mining industry was worth $2 billion to New Zealand last year and he simply wants to look at balancing economic and environmental concerns.

He says the Schedule 4 clause has been a potential barrier to economic benefit, tying up about 30% of the land with greatest prospecting potential.

Mr Brownlee says the mining industry can contribute to the well being of the NZ economy.

He told Morning Report there are examples around New Zealand, such as the Pike River coal Mine on the West Coast where conservation and mining can co-exist.