About 1,500 hectares or 0.04% of the conservation estate is affected by mining. This is after more than 40 years of mining on DOC land.
Mining has a small footprint because of the realities of commercial mining. Economic minerals resources are rare, hard to find, and are, almost by definition, very localised. Mining only happens where the minerals are present and economically recoverable while meeting the consent conditions imposed under the RMA.
Yet the very small footprint that is mined in New Zealand is highly productive compared with any other land use.
Other activities allowed on conservation land require a much bigger footprint, such as farming, ski fields, roads and carparking. What is more, unlike the other land uses, mining has a finite life. There are more than 5,000 skiable hectares of conservation land on ski fields which are unlikely to ever be restored to their natural state. The creation of roads, airports and carparks have permanently destroyed that land’s conservation value. High country pastoral leases are not in the same category but these areas total 1.2 million ha.
Depending on the type of mining, mined land is returned after rehabilitation, often in a better condition than it was when mining commenced as illustrated in our case studies.