High-tech, future focussed

Mining today is a hi-tech industry operating safely and responsibly, employing highly skilled people producing essential materials.

The world has entered the Technology Age of mining

The easier to find and extract minerals have largely been won. The challenge now is a multi-disciplinary one: to work at greater depth and at lower ore grades while managing costs; and managing the higher expectations of society in areas like environmental management.  All of this work requires improved technologies.

The world’s technologies continue to advance, and minerals are an important input to all of them: satellite and other telecommunications; electronics in phones, computers and other equipment; renewable energy technologies; transport and infrastructure; medicine; agriculture and food processing; leisure. Learn more from our Mining is vital to the way we live section.

The transition to a greener economy will require more mining, not less. This because for an equivalent installed capacity, solar, wind, hydro and geothermal electricity generation technologies require much more steel, concrete, aluminium, glass, copper and rare earth elements than fossil fuel, or nuclear-based facilities. 

 

Resource potential

To explore and mine, minerals must be present in potential or actual mineable concentrations - see Mining 101.

New Zealand has a global ranking of 44th for minerals prospectivity, when land-use and other restrictions and regulatory practices are factored in. That result is taken from the latest annual survey by the Canada-based Fraser Institute of mining company perceptions of doing business in 112 jurisdictions around the world. It is an encouraging figure when compared with 69th for unqualified minerals prospectivity – this says that New Zealand has other attributes in which we are highly ranked, e.g., 11th for the legal system.    

New Zealand’s mineral resource potential may be divided into two categories: minerals for local use (such as aggregates for roading and construction); and exports to world markets such as gold, oil and gas.

On land, New Zealand’s resource potential is chiefly in gold, silver, ironsands, tungsten and other “strategic metals”, as well as coal, aggregates and other industrial minerals, including limestone, clay, silica and pumice. View a map of New Zealand’s mineral resources and largest producing mines in Straterra’s Minerals Briefing Paper 2014.

Seabed mining in New Zealand lies in the future. Two projects are proceeding through regulatory approval processes: Trans-Tasman Resources proposes to mine ironsands for steel-making (with titanium and vanadium by-products) off the western seaboard of the North Island (South Taranaki). Chatham Rock Phosphate proposes to mine phosphorite nodules for the fertiliser industry off the Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand.

Potential also exists in precious and base metals – especially in copper and gold - in submarine hot spring deposits in the Kermadec volcanic arc, north of New Zealand. Exploration of these resources is currently on hold with a moratorium in place on new minerals activities in this region. Learn more on our Kermadecs – a sustainability challenge pages.

Marine resources with largely unexplored potential include:
•    placer gold
•    manganese nodules and crusts
•    methane hydrates.

 

Global demand for minerals

As more of the world’s population improve their living standards and wellbeing, more resources will be needed – for electricity and heating, housing, running water, access to food and modern medicine, transport and electronics. Recycling of materials will continue to play a role and mining will play an ever-increasing role to meet this demand.

Around 85% of the world’s population has on average one-tenth of New Zealand’s standard of living. Understandably, they would like to have what we take for granted in our daily lives. New Zealand is well placed to be a supplier to this market.
To put our country into perspective, in 2012 global coal production was 7800 million tonnes, of which New Zealand produced 5 million tonnes, or 0.06%.

In 2012 New Zealand produced 11.5 tonnes of gold, or 0.7% of the 1766 tonnes produced by the world’s top 10 producers.  
Since 2010 attention has focused on the so-called critical, strategic, technology or minor metals, for which looming shortages are forecast. New Zealand has resource potential in a number of these metals, including: iron, copper, tungsten, vanadium, platinum, and a number of rare earth elements. As well, New Zealand is a producer of aluminium, using Australian ore, drawing on our abundant hydroelectricity supply in the south of the South island.

 

Mining employs skilled people

A wide range of professions and trades are basic to minerals exploration and mining today:
•    Geology, geochemistry and geophysics.
•    Metallurgy and process engineering.
•    Mining and geotechnical engineering.
•    Health and safety, and risk management.
•    Environmental management.
•    Business, accounting and finance.
•    Law, planning, and regulatory processes and policy. C
•    Communications and stakeholder engagement.

Learn more on our Careers in mining pages.

 

Mining trades include:

•    the operation of vehicles and machinery;
•    earthworks and tunnelling;
•    processing of mineral ore and waste rock;
•    electrical and mechanical work;
•    plumbing and ventilation;
•    explosives and hazardous chemicals;
•    freshwater management and treatment;
•    site rehabilitation.         


Labour in the industry is sourced from a global market, including New Zealand. Because of the skill levels, education and training are essential, prior to employment, and on the job.