Waihi gold mine set to expand beneath residents’ houses

Work at the Martha pit has been restricted since the major slips, the first in April 2015. Photo / Sonya Bateson

By: Melanie Camoin
Melanie Camoin the editor of the Waihi Leader

Waihi’s mining company announcement is still “sinking in” for Waihi residents.
OceanaGold Waihi announced today its plans for a new underground mine to start underneath the Martha pit and reach some of the residential areas of town near Gilmour, Kenny and Mueller Sts.
The proposal, called Project Martha, will see the mining company returning to the open pit for more Gold.

Yesterday, OceanaGold held several meetings with some Waihi residents whose properties would be located right under the proposed underground mine.  The first of a series of community meetings started yesterday morning, and residents expressed their concerns over the proposal.  Some said they feared the potential vibrations from underground drilling, noise from blasting or damage to their houses.  OceanaGold presented their property package which included a top-up scheme, to match the market valuation before the sale of a property, ex gratia payments for directly affected properties and more.

For homeowner Glen Austin, the news of underground mining in this part of town was still sinking in.  “I don’t really want to sell [my house], I am more worried about my sister because she rents it off me. I’d like the property value to stay.”  His sister Vanessa has been living in Waihi for a long time, no stranger to the town’s mining history.  “I moved here knowing it is a mining town and used to live at Waihi East before.  “This house is full of memories,” she says.

In December 2013, the previous mining company, Newmont Gold, started developing its Correnso underground mine in the Waihi East area.  From this experience, OceanaGold senior communication adviser Kit Wilson said property values of Waihi East had been increasing.  “It is true that at one point we have seen the value goes down but it went up after a while. If you look there, you won’t find any house for rent,” he says.

Another resident said house owners could have another benefit.  “Remember that if a mine company is buying your house, you won’t have any real estate fee to pay,” she said.  Environmental group Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki said they were concerned about further potential subsidence in town.

“This latest proposal from OceanaGold is light on detail but sounds like another 10 years of blasting and vibration under the town which will increase the risks of further potential subsidence in the Martha pit. They want to mine underneath the pit and under yet more homes in the Eastern Waihi, despite the impact on homes, and on property values – not to mention the impacts on the people living in these homes,” said Coromandel Watchdog spokesperson Augusta Macassey-Pickard.

Waikino resident Brian Habberfield questioned how safe it was to start work in the Martha Pit given the multiple slips since 2015.  “We have a big unforeseen or foreseen problem here with the slip. On thing about that [the proposal] it will get the problem removed at the cost of going under more houses, churches and disturbing the residents even more, so it is bringing more uncertainty to the town with no economic benefit to the ordinary people that live here,” he says.

OceanaGold pointed out it contributes $300,000 per year to the town through community partnerships.  The company plans to lodge resource consents by May, but nothing will be done until October 2019, it says.