Land of The Hobbit up for platinum mining

The New Zealand Government is looking to advance platinum mining as exploration rights to over 4400 square kilometres of the South Island could be approved this year.

The land for exploration around Nelson and the upper West Coast was used for the film The Hobbit, reported.

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, said the tender would start in September and it would confer with local councils and iwi groups about the tenders for any apprehensions or parts of ‘particular sensitivity’.

The councils and iwi will hand their decision by August 1. Councils need to hand resource permission for any exploratory work to proceed. Ten councils and 17 iwi have been approached for their opinions on the proposal.

In the tender, companies can contest for blocks of up to 12,000 hectares to search for platinum and other precious minerals. The deadline is March 2014, and permits will be handed in June.

World Heritage sections and national parks are not included in the land on the block.

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals general manager David Binnie believes there will be significant gains in venturing into platinum.

“Platinum is an exciting commodity offering good potential for exploration and investment in New Zealand,” he said.

Royal Forest and Bird Society top of the south field officer Debs Martin fears the impact of mining on the many ecological areas in the proposed land. For example, Mt Richmond Forest Park was like New Zealand’s ‘other national park’, she said.

She called the plan ‘very broad brush’, where residential homes and townships are included in the area. She hopes some areas would be excluded after consultation.

NZ Petroleum and Minerals national manager of minerals Sefton Darby said consultation would narrow down exploration areas.

“The borders or boundaries of it are certainly not set at this stage.”

Royalties to the Crown would match that of gold: two per cent of revenue or 10 per cent of accounting profit, depending on which one is higher.

If the proposal is approved, it would mean employment for Kiwi geologists and drilling teams, but producing mines is still in the distant future, Darby said.

Geologists from overseas may also be recruited from overseas for specialised expertise in platinum but local geologists and drilling crews can do the work, he added.

Exploration is proposed in Nelson, inland Kaikoura, the upper West Coast and Southland.

This comprises of nearly three per cent of the South Island, but the amount of land actually mined will be lesser.

Around three-quarters of the global production of platinum occur in one section of South Africa, making it a rare mineral.

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