Information on the Steatite Quarry and how to take action.

This page contains information about both the Gold Mining operations at Sam’s Creek and the Soapstone (Steatite) operations across the Dam from the Cobb Road.  For now please follow these links for more information.  There is a short summary of the situation at the base of this page.

NEWS!

Updated Access Arrangement documents

Access Arrangement

Aquatic Ecosystems Assessment

Quarry Design

Terrestrial Fauna Assessment

Vegetation and Flora Assessment

16th July 2013

Hi everybody,  See  the website for arranging an appointment with Nick Smith.
The suggestion is going around Golden Bay to get together with a friend or as a special interest group and to visit Nick Smith to speak with him face to face about the steatite mine. Keep the visits coming, different people with different approaches.  The applicant, Gion Deplazes,  has recently travelled to Wellington to visit Nick to ask why his mine is being delayed.
The Sunday Star Times this week had a lead interview with Nick Smith headlined as “Govt sees dollars in national parks”.  He says in the article that we must get more commercial value out of our conservation estate.  He says it needs to be opened up to greater access to a wider range of users and quoted the Heaphy and cyclists as a good start.  Heli hiking and heli biking,  4 wheel drive vehicles, camping possibilities.   This could work in our favour by highlighting how important it is for visitors to the Cobb to not be greeted by an ugly bench mine and the accompanying zigzag roading on the hill immediately opposite the main Lookout kiosk.  Nor the put-off of heavily loaded trucks greeting tourists on the Cobb Road.
Maybe we can each contact others we think might be willing to pay Nick a visit.

21st November

The application was NOT considered on the 17th of November as the Conservation Board are still awaiting the officer’s report.  This is an opportunity for us to raise awareness and encourage family and friends to sign the petition which is now at almost 900 signatures.

10th November

The Application to mine the cob for Steatite will be considered by doc on the 17th of November at the conservation board’s meeting.

Access arrangements only require consultation of the conservation board and IWI, no public submissions are allowed for so in this instance our best position is to lobby the conservation board with our concerns.  please email Sean Magee smagee@doc.govt.nz   He is the person who is now servicing the Conservation Board.  His direct dial is 03 5463137.

If the access arrangement is granted the applicant will then go to Tasman District Council to obtain a Resource Consent, this will almost certainly be publicly notified.

Please also encourage as many people to sign the online petition as possible, please also encourage them to leave a comment, the petition is at 585 people currently and is here: http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/save-the-cobb-stop-the-proposed-steatite-quarry-in-the-cobb-valley-golden-bay-nz
Please sign this petition on Change.org

Report of Forest and Bird visit to site

Resource consent application produced by REM

Vegetation and flora assessment

Aquatic Ecosystems

Quarry design

Terrestrial Fauna Assessment

Developer’s website http://www.soapstone-nz.com/ssnz/home_.html

Threat to the Cobb

Most of you will be aware of the threat from Gold Mining at Sam’s Creek in the Cobb valley, however many will be unaware of a more immanent threat.

Applications have been made to both DOC and TDC by Steatite Ltd to quarry some 300 million tonnes of Soapstone also known as Steatite or Talc Magnesite from the area immediately across the dam in the Cobb Valley.  This heavily fractured Steatite will be hewed from the hillside and loaded onto at least 33 trucks per week which will then travel down the already dicey Cobb road.

You may have met an inquisitive Kea or Kaka on a tramp past this spot on the way to lake Sylvester, heard the song of Korimako/Makomako (Bellbirds) or shared a perch atop of one of the awe inspiring outcrops with a Robin, Tomtit or Titipounamu (Rifleman).  The Flora is equally impressive having adapted over the millennia to the unique toxic landform of Magnesite and Asbestos, there are 11 plant species considered at risk here as well as an unnamed celery pine and very rare pseudopanax.

The New Zealand Geological Society has wanted to upgrade this area to a site of national importance due to the presence of the formation that contains the Steatite itself. Information obtained from GNS Sciences has shown that this geological formation is unique in the world and therefore is considered by them to be of national importance.

If this quarry goes ahead a highly industialised quarrying operation will continue twenty four hours a day, nine months of the year for thirty eight years.  The peaceful serenity occasionally pierced by the chatter of birdsong will be shattered for a generation by quarry operations and heavy truck movements.

If you disagree with these proposals please take action!  The resource consent application with TDC is currently on hold whilst Doc makes a decision on the access permit. This does not stop us from preparing our submissions as the expectation is that this will be publically notified.  Please write letters to the editor of local and national publications, write letters of opposition to:

Neil Clifton, Conservator, Nelson Marlborough Conservancy Office

186 Bridge Street

Nelson 7010

Nick Smith, Parliament House

Private Bag 18888

Parliament Buildings

Wellington 6160

Nick.Smith@parliament.govt.nz

Letter to Sean Magee

I am writing to express my concerns about the proposed talc magnetite mine in the cobb valley.  I am aware that the access permit being considered is not publically notified and I am aware that there is no mechanism for public consultation, however I am writing to try to highlight some significant issues detailed and not detailed in the applicants resource consent application and supporting documents which I imagine that have been provided to you as an elaboration of the proposed project.

Endemism / habitat destruction

Firstly I would like to emphasise that this area is one of the highest rates of endemism in New Zealand,  This is largely due to is the presence of the Talc Magnisite itself and the very properties it is being removed because it possesses.  Due to the thermal properties of this rock and its protrusion above the canopy and its aspect it gathers considerable heat during the day.  Kaka are said to frequent this area in the evenings due to its warmth.  It is inaccurate to represent this area as nothing more than an extension of the greater area surrounding it as it has special characteristics (thermal and toxicity)  that have led to the ecosystems upon it adapting.

At risk / Declining Species Present

To trade off an intact ecosystem containing so many species which are recognized as at risk or declining is unacceptable to me.  The benefits are largely to one family plus a very limited amount of workers due to the operation being so highly mechanized.  The Costs are to all of us.

Flora

–       Pittosporum dallii

–       Notothlaspi australe

–       Peraxilla tetrapetala

–       Carex devia

–       Chionochloa defracta

–       Colobanthus aff. wallii “serpentine”

–       Dracophyllum ophioliticum

–       Hebe albicans

–       Korthalsella salicornioides

–       Myosotis brockiei

–       Nematocerus aff. trilobum “Rimutaka”

–       Uncinia viridis

–       Cardamine “magnesite”

Fauna

–       -Kea,

–       Kaka,

–       Riflemen,

–       Rock Wren,

–       Bush Falcon,

–       short tailed Bat,

–       long tailed bat,

–       Green Gecko,

–       Forest Gecko

–       Powelliphanta snails

–       Possibly kiwi

Concerns over the wildlife survey

I contest that the wildlife survey represents an accurate representation of the Fauna existing on the site.  Insufficient visits across an insufficient proportion of the year over insufficient years will lead to insufficient data that will not represent a complete assessment of the birdlife especially.  I contest that this area is probably a habitat for greater spotted kiwi given the acceptance of this being the case across the valley at the visitor information station.

 

Concerns over changes to the consent conditions

In the applicant’s documentation and application he states that there is around 300 million tonnes of recoverable Steatite in the permit area.  He also states that he intends no more than 1666 truck movements per year each carrying 9 tonnes of material.  The application is for 38 years.  The total volume that this equates to is 569,772 tonnes total.  This is approximately 0.18% of the material that surveying suggests exists in these outcrops.  I have concerns that the resource consent will be amended and the consent conditions changed over time as the project gets underway.

One chance to use this Material

This steatite ‘lens’ is the only source of magnesium in new Zealand.  Once it is gone it is gone and this does not appear to be a use of it that justifies the destruction of habitat and impacts on the special place.  If we allow this steatite to be hewed from the hillside and shipped to Europe to make fireplaces and benchtops we are making a decision that we will never require a domestic source of Magnesium.

Rehabilitation

I do not believe ‘rehabilitation’ is possible.  The habitat and associated life is dependent on the material to be removed.  The applicant includes the following application in it’s resource consent application “Conducting rehabilitation trials” – this implies they do not have a clear idea of how this can be accomplished

Tourism Impacts

For many people with limited mobility the Cobb represents the only local area where they can experience the Kahurangi with the drive up the cobb road.    The impact on their experience from the volume of trucks and associated vehicles will destroy their experience of this unique environment.  This is likely to have impacts on the local economy as I expect visitor numbers to drop as some people will come to the Golden Bay to experience the Cobb as vehicle constricted visitors.

Road Safety issues

Selwyn Steedman – transportation mgr at TDC has said that no improvements will be made to the road and a levy will be charged to the applicant ‘per truck movement’ for ‘maintenance’  This road is far to narrow and windy to accommodate trucks of this size at the frequency indicated – N.B truck movements are twice applicants stated figures as empty trucks must return for another load.  This road is clearly too narrow to accommodate this volume of heavy traffic.  I visited the permit area two weeks ago and felt that this would be in a very bad situation

Colin Robertson

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