Gold miners delivered a 'no' on dredging Clutha from Luggate

by Kim Bowden - Jan 18, 2024

A commercial gold mining operation's bid to suck sediment from the bed of the Clutha/Mata-Au River has been shot down, largely in response to potential negative environmental impacts.

Local authorities have declined necessary resource consents sought by Cold Gold Clutha Limited to search for gold along approximately 23 kilometres of the river between the bridge at Luggate and the top of Lake Dunstan.

Consents were required from the Otago Regional Council, the Central Otago District Council and the Queenstown Lakes District Council, who released a combined decision yesterday.

According to commissioners Rob van Voorthuysen, Craig Welsh, and Jane Sinclair, "the potential adverse effects of the proposal are not outweighed by its positive effects".

It is their conclusion the proposal is inconsistent with local policy, including the Otago Regional Council's water plan, and does not sit well alongside other visions for the waterway held by groups including Kai Tahu and Otago Fish and Game.

They also highlight the potential for the mining company's plans to negatively impact on eel migration, fish spawning, macroinvertebrate populations and the natural character of the riverbed itself, as well as recreational use and the amenity value of the stretch of river for others.

A hearing on the application was held in Cromwell in November.

It was Cold Gold Clutha's plan to run its 24-metre dredge with 6.6-metre beam in what it described as a discreet operation in search of alluvial gold.

However opponents to the application voiced concerns over potential noise pollution as well as the risk of fuel spills in the river, another concern mentioned by the commissioners in their decision.

The company already has consents to dredge further downstream between Roxburgh Dam and Tuapeka Mouth, which were renewed last year and run through to 2035.

It can choose to appeal the latest decision.

Daniel Walker, of Takaka, is majority shareholder in the mining company, with Peter Hall, of Dunedin, and Jacqui Wilcox, of Wellington, minor shareholders.

Cold Gold Clutha has been approached for comment.

Main image (Cold Gold Clutha resource consent application): Cold Gold Clutha's applications for resource consents to operate a 24-metre-long suction dredge along a section of the Clutha/Mata-au River between Luggate and the top of Lake Dunstan have been declined.

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