Gold exploration permit goes to Australian company

WELLINGTON: An Australian company has been granted a five-year permit to explore for gold on the central North Island volcanic plateau, south of Kawerau.

Silver City, an experienced precious metals exploration company, will be investing at least $1.25 million exploring over the next five years, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says.

The permit covers a 33km sq area and Mr Bridges says the project has the potential to create jobs and benefit the local and national economy over the long term.

"It is a great result to see a new entrant come into our market at a time when the price of gold and other mineral commodities is low, investors are understandably risk averse, and companies are tightening up their existing operations," he said.

The Green Party had been worried the government would open up the 78,000 hectare Pureora Forest Park, west of Lake Taupo, to mining.

The forest, which is notable for its totara trees and endangered kokako population, was the site of anti-logging protests in the late 1970s.

The government ended native forest logging in the park in the early 1980s and it is now an important regrowth area for native trees.

In parliament on Thursday, Mr Bridges would not rule out Pureora being included in the tenders.

Any operator who wanted to prospect in a conservation area needed to meet Department of Conservation regulations, he said. When the exploration tenders went out in 2013, the government said the only areas unavailable for prospecting were high-value Schedule 4 conservation land, culturally sensitive areas around the Rotorua lakes and the land under Rotorua and Taupo.
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