OceanaGold has been granted consent to extend mining at its Waihi site by about 12 years.

The company has been cleared to extend the Martha pit in the middle of Waihi slightly to the north so that it can reinstate the pit’s haul road which collapsed in April 2015, halting open-cast mining. A large section of the north wall subsequently collapsed a year later.

An independent hearings committee has approved that work, which will enable OceanaGold to stabilise the pit wall and resume operations there. The three-member panel also approved consents for the company to undertake new underground mining beneath the Martha Pit, and a new area of underground workings below an area of residential, reserve and commercial land south-east of the pit.

OceanaGold estimated the project would extend the mine’s life by about 12 years, and deliver economic gains of about $73 million annually for that period.

“These consents represent a great outcome for the company, the town of Waihi and for the region,” chief executive Mick Wilkes said in a statement.

“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.”

OceanaGold’s application was heard by Alan Watson, Rob van Voorthuysen and Antoine Coffin.

They noted the current mining operation had been on-going for many years, and the economic benefits and jobs the new project will provide for Waihi and the surrounding area.

“The adverse effects on the amenity of the locality can be managed and contained to a level that is acceptable to the community by the conditions of the consents.”

Any appeals must be lodged by Feb. 1.

OceanaGold acquired Waihi from Newmont Mining in 2015. It also operates the larger Macraes gold field north of Dunedin.

The company sought consent from Hauraki District Council and Waikato Regional Council in June. The proposals were publicly notified in August and hearings were held over five days last month.

Deputy mayor Toby Adams said OceanaGold had been actively engaged in exploration work and the consent applications came as no surprise. He expects further exploration work will continue.

Using independent commissioners had been important to ensure an informed and unbiased decision, he said.

“When making a decision on any proposed project it’s important to consider the current needs of all sectors of the community and the needs of future generations too.”

Waihi produced 119,084 ounces of gold in 2017 and was expected to deliver up to 80,000 ounces this year.

When the firm applied for consent, it said existing production – from the Correnso and Slevin underground operations – was expected to be exhausted by the end of 2019.

Workers from those operations would then transfer to Project Martha, as the underground extension is called. It was expected to require between 250 and 350 full-time staff and between 50 and 100 additional contractors.

Stripping of the north wall was not expected to begin until year three, and that cut back work would take five years before open-cast mining in the pit could resume. 

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