The original project
The original project (Martha Mine open pit) was licensed under the Mining Act 1971 and the associated water rights granted under the Water and Soil Conservation Act 1967 and the clean air licence under the Clean Air Act 1972. These consents were granted, following extensive technical and economic investigations and after a lengthy hearing before the then Planning Tribunal.
Mining Licence 32 2388 was granted by the Minister of Energy on 16th July 1987 over 394.27 ha for a term of 30 years.
The Mining Licence and Water Rights have strict conditions aimed at ensuring that mining activities do not adversely affect the amenity of the area or the natural environment. These conditions cover aspects such as noise, dust, vibration, hours of operation, pit slope stability and water quality. Water management and the safe and effective containment of the tailings constitute an important aspect of project management. Performance is subject to rigorous monitoring to ensure compliance with conditions. In the years of operations to date, an excellent degree of compliance has been achieved.
The extended project - 1997
In July 1997 applications to extend the open pit were lodged after extensive consultation with the community and various government departments and the Regional and District Councils under the Resource Management Act 1991, the Crown Minerals Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 1974.
The company prepared an Assessment of Environmental Effects (two volumes) and had consultants prepare 31 technical reports, all of which were lodged as supporting documentation to each of the applications. A Land Use Consent Application was lodged with the District Council, many resource consent applications were lodged with Waikato Regional Council, a variation of the Mining Licence Application was lodged with each of Hauraki District Council, Waikato Regional Council and the Minister of Energy and applications to stop roads were lodged with the Hauraki District Council.
After public notification and submissions, a joint council public hearing, a period for appeals and referral to the Environment Court a final decision to grant the extended project was released in December 1998. Conditions were finalised in October 1999. The variations to the Mining Licence were also processed in the same timeframe.
The Resource Management Act 1991 and regulatory authorities
The Resource Management Act 1991 sets out a series of considerations and restrictions on the use of land, the use of beds of lakes and rivers, the use of water and also relating to the discharge of contaminants into the environment. Generally, unless a rule in a relevant plan permits an activity, or an appropriate resource consent is held, the activity is not allowed.
Where an application is required, it must be made to the appropriate consent authority. With respect to applications for the use of land the consent authority is the Hauraki District Council. For matters relating to water, the use of beds of rivers and lakes, and the discharge of contaminants to land, air or water the relevant consent authority is Waikato Regional Council. It should be noted that Waikato Regional Council also has limited control of land use with respect to soil conservation and maintenance and enhancement of the quality and quantity of water.
The role of the regulatory authorities is to ensure that the environmental conditions laid down in the Mining Licence, Water Rights and Resource Management Consents are being met. A further independent check is provided by the Peer Review Panels. These are independent bodies of experts who review the technical standards of particular aspects of the operation. They report their findings to Waikato Regional Council and Hauraki District Council.
Submissions can be made in support or opposition to any resource consent application, which are then heard at a Council hearing. Appeals can then be lodged with the Environment Court.