Gold miner returns Greenstone river bed back to its premining state

A gold miner is returning the Greenstone river bed, a conservation area on the West Coast near Kumara back to its pre-mining state.

Naturally occurring Green Stone rock. Source:

John Morris says he is restoring the area they have been mining for 22 months.

Morris along with Grey councillor and miner Peter Haddock say the bush has been regenerated naturally after one hundred and 60 years of gold mining on the Greenstone river with a low environmental impact.

This is just one of the reasons why miners were dumbfounded when conservation minister Eugenie Sage signalled all conservation land would be off limits to new mining.

Eugenie Sage says the goal is that New Zealanders can expect that protected lands are places where nature can thrive.

“It’s been signalled that we’re looking at mechanisms to achieve this so there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge to achieve this.”

There are concerns on the coast that mining on conservation land will be phased out. 84 percent of the West Coast is conservation land and much of that is stewardship land, lower value parcels of land inherited by DOC from forestry and land transfers with a lot of access arrangements.

Anton Beck’s been harvesting it for 30 years and is proud of the way the land has recovered.

“If this government with their present focus can make an arbitrary decision to stop mining what assurance is that going to give to other sectors.”

Greenstone is another sector dependant on access to conservation land owned by Ngati Waewae.

Runanga chair Francios Tumahai explains that gold miners supply their greenstone which 112 registered craftsmen are dependant on. The miners get a finders fee. In the last 2 and a half years, the miners have recovered 20 tonnes of Greenstone.

“Next thing we find out we can’t access that either, it’s just another boot in the guts really. Clearly with the act, we are the owners; they’ve locked us out of our mineral.”

Although Hokitika’s mayor Bruce Smith is proud of his town’s tourism boom, he insists, it is not the answer.

“Of course the other side of the issue is that a mining job is worth a hundred thousand, 14 thousand a year. If we get rid of mining we will be peasants in our own community.”

He says there is a lot of discussion about whether short term handouts are the answer but he believes they’re not.

“You can’t have jobs without access to our resources to your land.”

The effect of recent mine closures can be felt around Greymouth.

Men from the Workingman’s club in Greymouth say the Coast has always been well-represented in the national league team but for the first time in a hundred years there is no senior competition.

With fewer jobs and an uncertain future, there is little keeping the young men on the Coast.