While hundreds of jobs have been lost due to Covid-19 in the North Island district of Hauraki, the Waihi Gold mine is proving to be a reliable source of employment and has plans to expand.
Brett Ranga, 29, hopes he will find gold.
"They've advertised for underground operators, and I’ve put myself forward to go into there."
He said he hoped working in the mine would allow him to spend more time at home with his wife and kid.
Tash Goldworthy, who used to work in security, has found herself in the mine too. Her team is responsible for the 23 people working underground.
"They tease me and my husband a bit, because he's the chef.”
It’s a challenging task as large machinery operates in the narrowest of margins. It blasts rock away as miners search for gold.
“So, I’m kind of like the mother duck of my crew,” Ms Goldworthy said.
Over 90 per cent of the mine’s staff are local.
Underground mine manager Charlie Gawith said they’re looking to develop a new mine that is “much bigger than what we’ve run before”.
“Historically we've run about 150 persons. Going forward, we're probably going to be pushing well up over 200 people."
The mine recently advertised for one position. It got 50 applications. The company said the average wage for a skilled operator is over $100,000 a year.
While environmentalists have opposed mining in the region, parent company Oceana Gold is confident it will stay in Waihi.
Oceana Gold senior communications advisor Kit Wilson said: "We've been here for 30 years, and we think we can be here for another 30 and we're hiring good people that are going to help us do that."