OceanaGold is moving closer to an underground mine at Wharekirauponga near Waihi. This is a story of low-impact gold exploration while conserving Archey’s frog, and of minimising the disturbance of ground by accessing the mineable resource from a portal outside forested conservation land.
Wharekirauponga is a gold deposit 10km north of Waihi, where exploration restarted in 1978, culminating in intensive drilling once OceanaGold acquired the asset in 2015. The company is now developing an underground mine here as part of its Waihi North Project. All going well, OceanaGold will start producing gold + silver at this Hauraki District site from 2026. This will be an important contribution to the future of the company’s gold mining operations in and around Waihi.
A significant challenge is that Wharekirauponga occupies a Department of Conservation-administered forest park, and is one of the habitats of the at-risk Archey’s frog/pepeketua. This is rugged terrain, part of it old-growth native forest, while much of it is regenerating forest from historic mining. The old timers produced 19 oz of gold from 14 tonnes of ore between 1888 and 1897.
The Waihi North Project is a case study of applying the “effects management hierarchy” to the environment – avoid effects, then reduce the footprint, then remedy and mitigate effects on site and finally offset and compensate for residual effects, to deliver no net loss in environmental values overall.