September 5, 2008

Martha Probed for More Gold

By NEEMS, Jeff

Just months after abandoning plans to extend the western side of Martha Pit, mining company Newmont is now exploring options to expand its eastern side.

Newmont Waihi Gold external affairs manager Kelvyn Eglinton confirmed the company was eyeing a new project on the eastern side of the pit.

If the eastern expansion proved economically viable and logistics were manageable, Newmont would look to apply for new resource consents from both Hauraki District Council and Environment Waikato by the end of the year, Mr Eglinton said.

The company's resource consent expires in 2010 and its mining licence is valid through until 2017. Mr Eglinton said the only mining project likely to extend the company's operation was the eastern layback, which is in the present mining area.

"It's always been in the plan. When we canned the west, we knew we would want to look to the east as the next project. Yes, it's another extension of the mine life. That would give us 18 months, looking at the reserves there, but we're going through all the economic stuff at the moment."

While the eastern project might have less gold reserves than the shelved western project, Mr Eglinton said it was within the company's existing mining boundaries.

That extension would mean moving of some the mine's infrastructure, including the crusher.

The company had developed "closure scenarios" (timelines) which gave indications of likely operations through until late 2010, at both the Favona Underground and Martha Pit mines.

"What we want to do is be quite clear - we'd like to be around for the long term. Each project and timing is conditional on our consents and obviously the amount of reserves there are in those projects.

"Any incremental project like this allows us to continue our regional exploration."

Collette Spalding, spokeswoman for Waihi community group Distressed Residents Action Team (Drat), said news of Newmont's possible mine expansion came as no surprise.

"It's a bit unfortunate for those people who'll be in the path of any expansion."

Drat and residents would "make all our concerns known and hope to mitigate them so it's a win-win situation", she said.

Miss Spalding stressed Drat was not anti-mining, but wanted to ensure residents had some security and understanding of what Newmont planned.

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