Appendix A. Regulatory requirements
The following section provides an overview of regulatory requirements associated with mining operations in New Zealand, particularly as they relate to potential environmental impacts on streams, and to the West Coast and Southland. This information is not intended to replace regional council or Department of Conservation (DOC) advice, and all potential applicants are advised to also contact the relevant council and DOC to discuss their specific application. Further, the information provided in this document is correct as at June 2010, and users are advised to check with relevant councils and DOC for any updated requirements.
Mining is primarily regulated by requirements under the Crown Minerals Act (1991) and the Resource Management Act (1991) and amendments (2009).The key agencies responsible for regulating mining activities are Crown Minerals, DOC, and regional and district councils. Three types of permits are required prior to mining operations proceeding:
- A permit granted under the Crown Minerals Act;
- An access arrangement negotiated with all landowners and occupiers; for land administered by DOC, an access arrangement is required; and
- Resource consents (e.g. use of land and water, discharges to water, air), which are granted by district and regional councils.
While permits or licences granted under the Crown Minerals Act are largely related to the economic aspects of mining, granting of access (by DOC) and resource consents are often concerned with the potential for environmental impacts from the proposed operation, and thus are the focus of the following discussion.
A.1 Mining permit
Crown Minerals (under the Ministry of Economic Development) manages the Government’s oil, gas, coal and minerals. Anyone wanting to prospect, explore or mine the Government’s resources must obtain a permit from Crown Minerals under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. Further information is available on its website http://www.crownminerals.govt.nz/cms.
A.2 Access arrangements
Mineral-related activities (including exploration, prospecting, mining and conducting minimum impact activities) are authorised under the Crown Minerals Act. Anyone wishing to undertake mineral-related activities requires a permit from Crown Minerals and permission from the landowner for land access. The access arrangement requirements of private landholders will vary. In the case of public conservation lands, the permit holder requires DOC permission to access the land.
Permission for minimum impact activities is granted by way of a consent, while an access arrangement is required for all non-minimum-impact activities (mining, non-minimum-impact exploration and prospecting).
Minimum impact activities generally involve surveying or initial soil sampling undertaken by hand or hand-held methods only. These activities are generally undertaken on a prospecting permit or the first stages of an exploration permit.
Non-minimum-impact exploration, prospecting and mining activities include a wide range of activities involved with locating and extracting minerals. A comprehensive application for the required access arrangement is necessary and will need to include an assessment of environmental effects (AEE). This Framework is intended to assist in completing and assessing the information provided in the AEE. Specifically it is intended to assist with the sections on water management and disturbance to the environment (effects and monitoring of effects). In addition to onsite management to minimise and mitigate effects, additional safeguards such as insurances, compensation and bonds (to ensure restoration of the site and cover for potential risks) will be required as part of any access arrangement granted.
There are different categories of public conservation land, ranging from stewardship land to national parks. Each conservancy has a conservation management strategy (CMS), which is a management plan for land managed within the conservancy and describes the inherent values and purpose of each category of land managed. The conservation management strategy also outlines the policies associated with granting access arrangements.
Under Section 61(1A) of the Crown Minerals Act applications for access are unable to be accepted in some cases, primarily dependent on the status of the land (e.g. in wilderness areas and most areas of national parks). Access to the minerals (and consequently land containing the minerals) under a minimum-impact-activity consent or access arrangement can only be granted to land within a minerals permit. For any mining-related activities on public conservation land but outside the minerals permit, such as access roads, buildings or processing facilities, a concession may be required. It is recommended that you contact DOC staff in the relevant conservancy prior to commencing the application process, although DOC is developing a national standard operating procedure for assessing applications. This SOP will outline information requirements and the process each consideration of an application is required to follow.
For further information on access for mineral-related activities on public conservation lands, and the relevant application forms and guidelines, visit the DOC website (www.doc.govt.nz) or contact the relevant conservancy office.
A.3 Resource consents
Resource consents will be required for mining activities. The Resource Management Act (RMA) set outs the responsibilities of regional and local authorities and applicants. Regional councils issue four types of resource consent, covering:
- Land use (including disturbance of riverbeds);
- Water use;
- Discharges to water, land, and air; and
- Any activity in the coastal marine area.
The appropriate regional council will be the primary agency responsible for issuing resource consents for mining operations. A building consent from the regional council may be required for any dam construction. However, district councils issue resource consents for land use activities and building consents, which could be required for some mining operations.
A key component of resource consent is the AEE (assessment of environmental effects). General guidelines for assessing environmental effects are provided in Schedule 4 of the RMA. This framework is intended to assist in completing and assessing the information provided in the AEE, specifically those sections that relate to assessment of the potential effects on the environment, discharge to the environment (including sensitivity of the receiving environment, alternatives for discharge, and mitigation options) and monitoring requirements.
Individual councils provide information on their websites about obtaining resource consents, and may indicate specific information requirements. For example, the West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) requires an annual work programme to be completed as a condition of the consent. Templates for coal and gold mining are provided on the WCRC website (http://www.wcrc.govt.nz/consents/mining.htm), and require information on the general operation of the site, rehabilitation, and water management. Environment Southland currently outlines the general process for resource consent applications, but does not have anything specific for mining (http://www.es.govt.nz/Departments/Consents/index.htmx?sm=g_a). Consultation with the relevant council will provide specific information on requirements, templates for applications, and any changes to plans. As with access arrangements, applicants should discuss their application with the relevant regional council to ascertain current requirements.
Bonds will be required to ensure compliance with the resource consent conditions, and will form part of the negotiations during resource consenting.
A.4 Regional plans
Individual regional councils may have regional plans containing rules that apply to mining operations and their effect on the environment. These rules must be taken into account in a resource consent application. Existing regional plans that are of potential relevance to mining activities on the West Coast or in Southland are identified below. Regional plans for the management of water will also typically outline the classification of different aquatic systems according to the water quality classes set out in Schedule 3 of the RMA (2009 Amendment).
A.4.1 West Coast Regional Council
The Proposed Water Management Plan (WCRC June 2007), the Proposed Regional Land and Riverbed Management Plan (WCRC July 2009) and the Discharge to Land Plan (WCRC 2002) may be relevant to mining activities. While the water management and land and riverbed plans are not yet operative, all appeals on the policies and rules relating to acid mine drainage and mining are resolved, and thus are treated as if operative in accordance with Section 19(1) of the RMA. Further, there is an intention to merge these three plans (pers. comm., Chris Ingle, CEO, West Coast Regional Council).
The Proposed Water Management Plan identifies swimming areas, and Policy 7.4.1 of the plan states that the council will manage those areas for contact recreation purposes (Class CR) and all other surface water bodies in the region for aquatic ecosystem purposes (Class AE). This plan also identifies rivers that have acid drainage issues, and has a specific policy for their management (7.4.2). Under the plan, the discharge of mine waters to a stream is a discretionary activity. There are also rules for abstraction (e.g. taking of water for dust suppression/coal washing) and diversion of water. The information required in resource consent applications is outlined, including specific requirements for the discharge of water or contaminants and acid mine drainage outlined in sections 14.3.4 and 14.3.5.
The Proposed Regional Land and Riverbed Management Plan (WCRC 2009) should also be taken into account if disturbance of vegetation or riverbeds is expected to occur or when earthworks or construction are planned.
The Discharge to Land Plan (WCRC 2002) should be taken into account, particularly in relation to the stockpiling of waste rock (Objective 6.3.1, Policy 6.4, Rules 1 and 17).
Both plans also provide information on circumstances and purposes for which financial contributions (e.g. bonds) may be imposed and used, and the assessment criteria for determining the amount of the financial contribution.
A.4.2 Environment Southland
Environment Southland’s Regional Water Plan (Environment Southland 2010) is the most relevant regional plan for mining activities. While there are no specific rules covering mining activities, the plan includes rules for abstraction (e.g. mine dewatering, taking water for dust suppression/coal washing), discharge, or diversion of water. The plan also outlines the information required to be submitted with a resource consent application. The plan has water quality standards for different characteristics of surface water bodies (Policy 5.2.1), which will potentially also influence discharge consents. The plan also provides information on circumstances and purposes for which financial contributions (e.g. bonds) may be imposed and used; the manner in which the amount of the contribution will be determined is also set out.
Large-scale mining and processing of minerals, or the flaring of gases, may also require a resource consent under the Regional Air Quality Plan (Environment Southland 1999).
The Regional Solid Waste Management Plan (Environment Southland 2007) may be relevant if it is considered that the mining operation constitutes a ‘Refuse Disposal Facility’ (Rule 4.5.2). This may occur in co-disposal of overburden with other material, e.g. sludge from any treatment plants or ash from boilers that consume the coal (pers. comm. Stephen West, Senior Resource Planner, Environment Southland).
A.5 Conservation orders
There may also be conservation orders in place that set water quality standards for certain rivers, and it may be applicable to consider these when assessing the potential impacts of proposed mining.
Two conservation orders exist pertaining to West Coast rivers: the National Water Conservation (Grey River) Order 1991 and the Water Conservation (Buller River) Order 2001.
Two conservation orders exist pertaining to Southland rivers: the Water Conservation (Mataura River) Order 1997 and the Water Conservation (Oreti River) Order 2008.
Environment Southland 1999. Regional Air Plan. Environment Southland, Invercargill, New Zealand.
Environment Southland 2007. Regional Solid Waste Management Plan. September 2007. Environment Southland, Invercargill, New Zealand.
Environment Southland 2010. Regional Water Plan. March 2010. Environment Southland, Invercargill, New Zealand.
WCRC 2002. Regional Discharge to Land Plan. West Coast Regional Council, Greymouth, New Zealand.
WCRC 2007. Proposed Water Management Plan. June 2007. West Coast Regional Council, Greymouth, New Zealand.
WCRC 2009. Proposed Regional Land and Riverbed Management Plan. June 2007. West Coast Regional Council, Greymouth, New Zealand.
 If the minerals are privately owned a permit under the Crown Minerals Act is not needed, but all of the other permits and consents are still required, together with the consent of the mineral owner.
 In some cases, negotiation with landholders may be required to cross their land to access the land in which the minerals exist.
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