Quarrying & Mining Magazine

New West Coast mine milestone

New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals granted Tasman Mining a Mining Permit for the high-grade Blackwater gold deposit near Reefton on the West Coast. This approval grants the right to mine gold and silver from the site for a 20 year period.

Six decades after gold mining ceased, Tasman Mining aims to  set up an underground mine at the site of the historic Blackwater mine with a small surface footprint with an access point and infrastructure located on private land several kilometres away from the historic mine site. Tailings from the operation would be stored underground within the mine.

“Tasman Mining will now work through the final approval process for the Annual Work Plan & Environmental Management Plans with the Buller and West Coast Regional Council,” says managing director of Tasman Mining, Mark Le Messurier.

“Our aim is to commence the development of a decline at the start of 2020 in conjunction with our technical, environmental and economic studies which will underpin a future decision as to whether a low impact, modern gold mining operation at Blackwater is feasible.”

On July 18, 2018, Tasman Mining entered into an agreement with OceanaGold Corporation for the exclusive right to purchase the high-grade Blackwater Project upon Tasman agreeing to develop the mine. Since then, Tasman Mining has appointed Nigel Slonker as project manager for the Blackwater Project. Nigel is based in Reefton and has responsibility for managing the Blackwater site and future decline development at the project.

He is an experienced underground mining engineer and has held previous roles as a Mines, Tunnels and Quarries Inspector for WorkSafe New Zealand and general manager of the Reefton Gold Mine and mining manager of the Frasers Gold Mine. Nigel was also involved in the previous Feasibility Study completed by OceanaGold at Blackwater in 2014.

By the end of last year, Tasman Mining had commenced environmental monitoring at the project and had received tenders from a number of companies for the future construction of the 3300 metre tunnel (decline) to establish the underground drilling site.

To date, more than $18 million has been spent on exploration at Blackwater, and it is estimated that a mining operation would require an investment of more than $500 million in capital and operating expenses over 10 years, generating close to $1 billion in export revenue.

Around 30 direct jobs would be created during the decline development and underground drilling phase and approximately 100 direct jobs (not including contractors) over a 10 year mine life.

Chief development officer for OceanaGold, Mark Cadzow says; “The granting of the mining permit for the Blackwater Project is a strong endorsement of the high-quality work undertaken by Tasman Mining to date, and we are very pleased to be supporting such a strong management team who are focused on working towards developing a modern underground mine in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.”

Straterra CEO Chris Baker says although there is still much work to be done to establish the Blackwater prospect as a new mine, it is an important milestone.

“New mines are hard to find and hard to develop, in New Zealand and globally. If it goes ahead it will attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for the West Coast and New Zealand, create more than a hundred local jobs and boost exports considerably. It would also provide significant revenue for the Government in the form of royalties and taxes.

“Not many people know that gold is already our number one goods export to Australia. Demand for gold over recent years has been quite strong, and that is likely to continue. Everyone knows gold is used for jewellery and as a store of wealth, but it is also an important component in electronics and many emerging ‘low carbon’ technologies.

“Modern hard rock gold mining is conducted responsibly, and environmental management and rehabilitation is an integral part of any mine and project proposal.

“We have excellent examples of this in New Zealand at Waihi, Macraes and the now closed Reefton gold mine and that good record is due, in no small part, to the legislative regime that regulates resource projects, such as the Blackwater proposal – including the RMA.  This give us confidence that future operations will meet the highest standards.

“Blackwater was once the most productive mine in the Reefton Goldfield. Between 1908 and 1951 it produced approximately 700,000 ounces of gold (worth $1.3 billion at today’s prices). The West Coast has a strong tradition in mining. A benefit of that tradition is that the community, local councils and relevant government officials are well versed in the business of mining.

“And we note that the Government has recently provided explicit support for mining on the West Coast and will be keen to see responsible investment generating jobs and taxes.” 

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