This article was originally published in Business South magazine in August 2020: Reefton restoration Leading the way
Multinational gold producer OceanaGold, with global operating, development and exploration experience, is serious about sustainability.
And company spokesman Kit Wilson says OceanaGold’s commitment to achieving sustainable outcomes does not end when their mining operations cease.
“For us the closure of a mine site is simply a transition to a new phase of operations, and a new Opportunity to achieve additional important sustainability targets.”
He says the former Globe Progress Mine at Reefton is a leading example of OceanaGold’s
Commitment to achieving sustainable outcomes after mining operations cease.
OceanaGold operated the Globe Progress Mine for about 10 years, and on average, moved approximately 23 million tonnes of material each year.
As a result of more than 610,000 ounces being extracted from the site, the depth of the main pit was 275m below the highest ground surface. However, in 2016, the mine transitioned from an operational phase to closure and rehabilitation and has since come to be known as the Reefton Restoration Project.
“The Reefton Restoration Project is largely focused on achieving environmentally sustainable outcomes. Central to the project is the re-establishment of vital ecosystems in the new post-mining landscape.”
In order to achieve this, OceanaGold has already undertaken a large-scale reforestation programme, covering 118ha. So far 700,000 seedlings have been planted, and a further 200,000 seedlings will be planted over the next 3 years.
The reforested areas predominately include species native to New Zealand, such as Beech and Manuka varieties, to provide homes for local wildlife species and enhance biodiversity outcomes.
In addition to planting, the progressive rehabilitation pf the former mine site also includes waste rock reshaping, backfilling operations, spreading of topsoil, and pest management, to ensure that the environment is visually integrated into the surrounding landscape.
Kit Wilson says the Reefton Restoration Project also includes social sustainability targets to benefit the local community.
“A major target of the project was to support local community projects and since the rehabilitation phase began the company has provided $150,000 in funding for a local socio-economic development office, and $50,000 funding for local community projects.”
OceanaGold has also provided reinvigoration funding $50,000 to the local I-Site visitors centre to encourage tourism for the area.
The restoration project also aimed to offer employment opportunities for local community members, and several positions have been filled by local people, while the local and regional economy has also been bolstered through the procurement of goods and services.
Steph Hayton, the Environmental and Restoration Coordinator at OceanaGold, says working on the project has been a hugely rewarding experience.
“Working on a project like this has required an adaptive management style where research and trial work informs decisions on all aspects of closure,” says Steph.
“This includes restoration trials determining rehabilitation methods at the beginning of the operation, all the way through to the establishment of passive treatment trials for long term management of onsite water when the first went into closure.”
Steph says the approach has meant innovative techniques creating some great long-term solutions.
“While some aspects of closure have been easier than others the work towards closure has been extremely satisfying, with rehabilitated areas of the site now hosting many native bird species including the nationally vulnerable South Island Kaka.”
Babbage Consultants Limited, a New Zealand based multi-disciplinary consultancy, has been providing support to OceanaGold on the project.
Among several services provided to OceanaGold, Babbage has conducted ongoing water quality monitoring and guidance on wetlands for a lake side margin and also a treatment wetland to enhance downstream water quality While OceanaGold has already made many
Significant environmental and social gains in the rehabilitation phase, the Reefton Restoration Project is not due to be completed for a few more years.
However, the project is already showing signs that it represents a new gold standard for mine rehabilitation.
In the coming two years, the project team will continue their environmental work, and the reinstatement of adjacent historic tracks.
Upon completion, OceanaGold will hand back the land to the New Zealand Department of Conservation in accordance with its council consent.