Seabed mining and access to Department of Conservation land are just a few of the contentious issues to be addressed during this year's national mining conference in Tauranga next week.
It is the 125th annual Australian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (AusIMM) New Zealand branch conference, which has attracted more than 185 delegates so far.
Mining tours and an epithermal gold workshop will take place this weekend with the conference at Trinity Wharf on Monday and Tuesday.
Conference convenor Vivienne Bull said she was ultimately expecting about 200 delegates. Last year’s event in Christchurch attracted 220.
Despite the Crowns Minerals Act being under review, with high expectations from environmentalists for increased land protections, Minister of Resources Megan Wood was unavailable to attend the conference.
Likely to be of keen interest will be a panel discussion on access to Department of Conservation (DoC) land for miners. Vivienne Bull said the DoC session on land would be “interesting and a challenge to prepare.”
The new Coalition Government has been widely criticised by environmentalists for its stance on not placing more restrictions on the mining sector so far, while increased restrictions have been placed on new exploration opportunities for the separate oil and gas sector.
Just last month protesters blocked workers from accessing New Talisman's Karangahake Gorge gold mine site in the Coromandel, vowing to keep protesting.
Further South, in July a 33,000 square kilometres swathe of Otago and northern Southland was reopened to prospecting permit applications, having been largely tied up for three years while Government aeromagnetic surveys were undertaken. This ignited environmental groups, as some of the southern areas overlapped with conservation land, including reserves, conservation areas or stewardship land or national parks.
Conservation Minister Eugene Sage moved to quickly reiterate the Government was still moving toward proposed law changes of “no new mines on conservation land” policy.
Given would-be Taranaki ironsands miner Trans-Tasman Resources just had its second marine consent set aside by the High Court, a paper by the Environmental Protection Authority on seabed mining consents will be popular.
OceanaGold Corporation, now producing about 98% of the country's gold output from Macraes in East Otago and Waihi in the central North Island, has several speakers, as does Bathurst Resources, the country's largest coal miner.
The University of Otago is as usual well represented by geology students' poster presentations, offering eight of the 12 posters registered so far; including work from the historic Denniston Plateau, West Coast rare earth element minerals, Macraes, elsewhere around Otago and Stewart Island.
The university will also see papers presented by professors Dave Craw and Doug Mackenzie, respectively on the Otago schist belt and the Hyde-Macraes shear zone.
From northern Southland, directors Noel Becker and Warren Batt of the Waikaia Gold alluvial gold mine will give two papers; on shifting the company's 270 tonne floating dredge, and an update on their Rise and Shine prospect, near Cromwell.
Waikaia started in November 2013 as an $18 million start-up, and in its first 22 months gleaned 1 tonne of alluvial gold from the farmland, at depths down to 16 metres-20m, running parallel to the Waikaia river.
Also presenting will be Tasman Mining's managing director Mark Le Messurier, who is looking to resume underground mining in the historic West Coast Blackwater mine, which closed after a 1951 shaft collapse. The new mine may require up to $500 M investment to get fully underway.
Pre-conference field trips include visits to the Broken Hills underground epithermal gold deposit, the Karangahake Gorge and Waihi epithermal gold deposits; and the Maramarua and Rotowaro open pit coal mines.
NZResources.com will be a media supporter at the conference.
*Simon Hartley is senior business reporter and assistant chief reporter for the Otago Daily Times.