Mining at Puhipuhi

Puhipuhi anti mining protest, June 2016. Photo: Malcolm Pullman

Beneath Puhipuhi is the largest gold deposit in Northland. It has been known about for many decades, well before our councils and Government spent $2 million of public money on mineral surveys in 2011. The mountain is part of a chain of ancient volcanoes stretching from the Coromandel, Aotea/Great Barrier Island to Kaeo.   Gold found in these types of deposits are in hard rock that’s sometimes very deep.

There are two types of mining this kind of rock:  “open cast” which is digging a giant hole which could literally mean moving mountains, agricultural land, destroying native forests or  “underground”, building underground tunnels and then trucking out the rock to be processed on site or at a processing plant further away.

To extract gold, the rock needs to be crushed to dust, mixed with water and cyanide. Cyanide is essential to the process and kills fish downstream but only for a short time. The cyanide brings out the gold and silver so it can be removed. But the bigger danger comes from cyanide bringing out the other heavy metals like mercury, zinc, cadmium and arsenic which makes them ‘bio-available’. That means instead of being safely trapped in the rock, mercury and other heavy metals can be taken up by plants and animals. This toxic waste needs to be stored out of the food chain beyond timescales we can only imagine.

This toxic by-product is usually stored in giant dams ( tailing dams ) near to the mine itself to cut down on transportation costs.  Conservatively 18 tonnes of toxic waste is produced to make one gold ring.

Flooding Whakapara Farmland 10 – 11 July 2007

Anyone living in the area of Puhipuhi, Whakapara knows how flood prone we are. Puhipuhi forms the headwaters of catchments that drain to Helena Bay and Mimiwhangata, Waikare Inlet in the Bay of Islands, across Hukerenui and Hikurangi swamp to the Kaipara Harbour, the largest breeding site for snapper in the country. One flood dropped 31mm of rain on Puhipuhi in an hour. Runoff swamped state highway one and the Hikurangi Swamp (5400 hectares) which produces $33 million annually in dairy.  If toxic waste had been carried by the flood the results could have been catastrophic both to the environment and economically.

In recent decades there has been environment issues when the District Council used abandoned toxic waste from the historic mercury mine on Puhipuhi as roading gravel. The waste from the  mercury mine dated back to World War II.

We can’t risk anymore waterways being further contaminated. Already the Far North District Council and Northland Regional Council cannot deal with pollution from farming, let alone toxic pollution from mining companies.

Local authorities have claimed all mining applications will be subject to ‘strict’ requirements, however mining interests have pushed the Government to strengthen corporate ‘rights’ and relax environmental care on a National level.

The Action Coordination Group is a working coalition of Ngāti Hau Kuia Kaumatua, the Ngāti Hau Anti-Mining Group, the Ngāti Hau Resource Management Unit, and MineWatch Northland.  Our aim is to make sure our precious environment, … land, water & air is protected NOW and for our future generations to come.

When our district floods  ..

It’s more than just a little water .. it’s a deluge …. Run off from flooding at Puhipuhi if their was a tailing dam from mining would most certainly be catastrophic. 

Photos were recorded by Northland Regional Council during the storm and floods that hit our region.  10 and 11 July 2007

Farmer Ben Smith of Whakapara is amongst the Northland farmers fighting the third deluge in as many months. TVNZ Report:  1 Sept 2014:

Whakapara floods 1989, Flood prone Whakapara goes way back ….

Gavin Donelly 17yrs on horseback on his family farm at Whakapara 7 January 1989… not your usual photo!

Taken from a local a newspaper article on flooding in the Whakapara district, Northland, January 7th, 1989. The picture is Gavin riding his horse on his family’s farm. The writing at the bottom says: ”Gavin Donelly, 17, crosses his family’s flooded Whakapara farm by horseback at 11a.m. today. The land was not under water at 5a.m.” Restoration work  to this photo was requested by Gavin Donelly himself …19 Feb 2009

7:14 pm on 10 June 2014  Flooding has closed roads in Northland on Tuesday night.  State Highway 1 around Whakapara is closed between Hukerenui Road and Jordan Valley Road: