AusIMM NZ Branch Conference held in Wellington last month was a rather subdued event that celebrated some things, mulled over the recent depressed state of the minerals and mining industry, but also looked forward to better times ahead. Reporting by Neil Ritchie.
The AusIMM NZ conference theme, ‘50 Years’, marking the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Branch of the Australian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (AusIMM), was certainly something to celebrate.
However, relatively poor attendance at the three-day event, held at the national museum Te Papa, coupled with the cancellation of most pre-conference and post-conference field trips, conspired to leave an overall subdued feel for delegates.
The event only attracted about 220 delegates from around the country and overseas, compared with some 280 delegates in Dunedin for the last year’s event.
And starting on a Sunday as the first full day of the conference, instead of Monday, was rather unusual. The New Zealand branch of AusIMM used it as a technical or semi-technical day, leaving most of the “big picture” overviews to the Monday and even the Tuesday, given the disrupted travel plans of Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.
In his rescheduled keynote speech on the Tuesday, Bridges recognised that the mining sector was getting back on its feet, just in time for the possibility of the government’s New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals (NZP&M) unit lifting permit fees after a 10-year hiatus. The outcome of the current review is scheduled to be made public sometime soon.
Bridges congratulated the industry on its continued importance to the country. “The minerals industry plays a major role in New Zealand’s economy, contributing more than $1 billion [per year] to our GDP, providing well-paid jobs, producing vital inputs for industry, and adding significantly to our exports. Building a more competitive economy is one of four main priorities of this government and the minerals sector is an important part of achieving that goal.
“While it is widely known that the construction of our roads and buildings is reliant on minerals, there is less public awareness that the green and smart technologies, which are increasingly the hallmarks of life in the 21st century, are also heavily reliant on minerals.
“To continue to develop low emission electric cars, wind turbines, solar panels, phones, tablets and medical devices, the world needs to prospect, explore and develop mineral resources and we all have a role in communicating this [and] as we emerge from a commodities downturn, it is a good time to remind ourselves again that this is a long-term, robust and strategic sector.”
Bridges says he is pleased to see two of the biggest Australian gold mining companies – Newcrest and Evolution Mining – starting their respective drilling campaigns in Hauraki and in Northland, and that OceanaGold has had encouraging results from its drilling campaigns in Otago’s Coronation mine.
“Oceana has planned more drilling this year than ever before, particularly with 30,000 metres of drilling planned around Waihi … these are all positive signs for the industry.”
He announced a $6.4 million extension of aeromagnetic surveying around the South Island, which will benefit new entrants to the sector the most, and soil geochemistry surveys across Southland, Otago, Nelson and Murchison.
He said NZP&M’s focus on compliance issues for permit holders, and more forward planning, had evolved into 20 new sets of mineral guidelines on applications and compliance. While NZP&M had halved the permit processing backlog from 300 to 150, it had also recovered more than 90 percent of overdue fees.
The minister also added that fees “must reflect the actual cost of NZP&M’s staff time”.
Only about 140 delegates attended on the final day of the annual conference and some of those delegates were not that impressed with Bridges’ speech, finding the claw-backs of costs and permit fee reviews concerning after hoping for more positive regulatory changes.
- Q&M attended the conference courtesy of the New Zealand Branch of AusIMM.