The footprint is tiny - even after 40 plus years
Only 0.04% of conservation land is currently mined
Our current estimate is that only 1,500 hectares or 0.04% of the conservation estate is affected by mining. This after more than 40 years of mining on DOC land.
Mining has a small footprint because of the realities of commercial mining. Economic minerals resources are rare, hard to find, and are, almost by definition, very localised. Mining only happens where the minerals are present and economically recoverable while meeting the consent conditions imposed under the RMA.
Yet the very small footprint that is mined in New Zealand is highly productive compared with any other land use. For example, a report for OceanaGold found that the value of production at the Macraes mine in Otago, at $3 million per hectare at that time, meant that it would take 767 years of dairy production on an equivalent area of land to match the revenue from the mine.
Mining also has a much smaller total footprint than many other uses that are allowed on conservation land.
Farming, skifields, roads and carparking occur on conservation land and have a greater footprint than mining. What is more, unlike the other land uses, mining has a finite life. There are an excess of 5,000 skiable hectares of conservation land on skifields which are unlikely to ever be restored to their natural state. The creation of roads, airports and carparks have permanently destroyed that land’s conservation value. High country pastoral leases are not in the same category but these areas total 1.2m ha. Depending on the type of mining, mining land is returned after rehabilitation, often in a better condition than it was when mining commenced as discussed here.
It is acknowledged that mineral deposits often (but not always) tend to be located under areas with higher conservation value. (This natural phenomenon is often as a result of geological outcomes). But for all activities, if the environmental cost is too high, the case-by-case assessment that is a feature the RMA, means that a land use proposal with too high an environmental impact (mining or whatever), will not be allowed to proceed.
The 8 arguments against the ban (click each argument to see more detail).