An independent panel of commissioners appointed by the Hauraki District Council and Waikato Regional Council granted all resource consents sought for the Martha underground mine at Waihi.
The panel also approved a resumption of mining from stage four of the Martha open cut, subject to the outcome of a statutory appeal period.
The decision would be welcome in this North Island region where the Waihi gold mining operations have been a major breadwinner and employer, though the environmental anti-mining cells in the region will undoubtedly go viral on social media.
Commenting, OceanaGold chief executive Mick Wilkes said: “These consents represent a great outcome for the company, the town of Waihi and for the region, as the extended mine life provides our valued employees and our shareholders with more certainty that mining at Waihi will continue for at least the next 10 years.”
Wilkes said Waihi has had a long rich history of gold mining that dates back to the 1800s and since then over 11 million ounces of gold have been produced in the Coromandel.
More recently, since 1988 when mining began at the Martha open pit over historic underground operations, the Waihi operation has been a major employer in the region and has contributed a significant amount of socio-economic benefits while operating to the highest of environmental standards globally.
OceanaGold said that following receipt of these consents from the regulator, parties who provided submissions in the initial public hearing process have until February 1 next year to appeal the decision.
Martha open cut had been a mainstay of the Waihi operation though operations ceased last year until a wall slip was remedied. OceanaGold has a strong regional exploration programme, with the most tantalising project being the big WKP prospect.
The Canadian website Mining.com said that in in August, OceanaGold increased the indicated resource for Martha underground by 700% to 760,000 tonnes grading 5.8 grams/tonne gold for a contained 140,000 oz and an inferred resource by 250% to 2.49 million tonnes @ 4.3 g/t Au for 339,000 oz.
Historically silver grades at Waihi were several times greater.
Mining.com said OceanaGold plans to start work on the Martha open pit by mid-2019 and will also conduct underground work south of the current pit.
OceanaGold’s Waihi general manager Bernie O’Leary told Mining.com there will be some underground mining just south of the current pit under residential properties.
“This is good for the company and good for Waihi,” he said.
OceanaGold bought the Waihi operations from Newmont Gold in November 2015 to add to its New Zealand operations, which take in the Macraes mining operation north of Dunedin on the South Island.
The New Zealand Herald reported Bernie O’Leary as saying earlier that if consents were granted, it would see stabilisation work on the north wall of the Martha pit to allow access below for mining operations.
New underground drives would also be created beneath the pit and under a residential area of the town from Rugby Park to the intersection of Mueller and Kenny streets, nearly 200 metres from the southern edge of the pit.
Sources: mining.com; stuff.co.nz; nzresources.com