Minerals are an important part of the New Zealand economy and the government is committed to strategically managing exploration interest in New Zealand.
The government is currently consulting with iwi and councils with an interest in an area proposed for a competitive tender in the second half of 2013.
The proposed tender is for permits to explore for metallic minerals over 8,261.09 km2 of the highly prospective Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) in the central North Island.
Affected iwi and councils are being contacted directly and have until 28 May 2013 to respond on the proposed tenders.
Sensitive conservation areas listed under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 and World Heritage Areas have already been excluded from the proposed tender areas.
Exploration permits will be awarded in 2014, following an extensive evaluation of bids received and will be limited to 7,500 hectares in size.
Why has the government proposed this area for exploration?
The TVZ is known to contain epithermal style gold-silver mineralisation in the shallow parts of extinct geothermal systems in the western side of the zone. Gold deposition is also observed in active geothermal fields on the eastern side of the zone.
Based on the geological setting and the results of exploration activities undertaken to date, the area is considered to be highly prospective for metallic minerals and would likely attract significant interest and investment from minerals exploration companies.
In 2012 NZP&M held a competitive tender for metallic mineral exploration permits over 5,537 km2 of the Northland region. Bids are currently being evaluated, and any permits awarded are expected to be announced later in 2013.
What are Competitive Tenders?
A minerals competitive tender involves a number of broad steps:
- Iwi and council consultation – to seek feedback on a proposed tender area.
- The tender – companies evaluate any data, and provide a work programme-based bid to explore in a certain area.
- Evaluation – NZP&M hold a rigorous assessment of all bids against the criteria, and terms and conditions of the tender.
- Any permits awarded are announced.
If successful, a company will be permitted to undertake exploration activity for a period up to ten years. They are also subject to meeting strict health and safety obligations and any environmental requirements set by the regional authority under the Resource Management Act.
Exploration activities typically include land based and aerial surveys, geological mapping, geochemical sampling of rocks, and exploratory drilling. This work helps to build understanding of the geology of the permit area and to identify mineral deposits. Any discoveries are then evaluated for their commercial feasibility. Exploratory drilling would proceed on a small footprint within the permit area.
An exploration permit does not include mining rights – any company that wishes to start mining will have to apply for a new permit and meet additional health and safety and environmental requirements. A mining permit is awarded for a much smaller land area than an exploration permit, with an actual mine footprint being much smaller again.