Tui Mine clean-up funding announced

  • Nick Smith

A $16.2 million clean-up fund for New Zealand’s most dangerous contaminated site at Tui Mine on Mt Te Aroha was announced today by the Government as part of an agreement with local councils and the Green Party.

“We need to stabilise and make safe the 160,000 tonnes of contaminated mine tailings that sit precariously above Te Aroha. Geo-technical reports indicate that life would be put at risk and damage of up to $168 million in the event of a modest earthquake or severe storm,” Environment Minister Nick Smith said.

“We need only look at the tragic tailings dam failure in Hungary last October – that killed 10 people and caused extensive damage in the village of Kolontár – to recognise the importance of addressing these risks.” 

The clean-up plan involves strengthening the tailings dam by mixing the contaminated soil with cement and rock, compacting the layers of material, and adding a new clay cap to prevent leachate polluting adjacent streams.

The $16.2 million cost is to be met by the Government providing $15.2 million, and contributions of $800,000 from the Waikato Regional Council and $200,000 from the Matamata-Piako District Council.

“It is frustrating that taxpayers and ratepayers are funding this clean up when the responsibility should rest with Norpac Mining Ltd that mined the site for copper, lead and zinc 40 years ago. The cost to the public purse of this contaminated site is a reminder of the importance of robust consent processes, conditions and bonds to ensure we are not left with problems of this sort from the mining industry in future,” Dr Smith said.

“The work announced today represents Phase Two of the Tui Mine Clean Up. Phase One was approved in 2008 and is estimated to cost $5.5 million.  It consisted of plugging up old mine shafts and preventing ongoing contamination as well as the design, peer review, remediation trials and planning for the tailings dam stabilisation.

“This initiative is an important component of a five-point work programme with the Green Party on better addressing New Zealand’s problems with contaminated sites.

“I wish to thank both the Waikato Regional Council and Matamata-Piako District Council for their support and contribution to this project. I also wish to acknowledge constituency MPs Lindsay Tisch and Sandra Goudie who have been strong advocates for getting this problem fixed.”

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