National | Chatham Islands

Chatham Islands Trust welcomes mining

Ward Kamo of Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Trust has been in discussions with Chatham Rock Phosphate, which is applying for a Government license to mine in the Chatham Rise.

Lack of employment was high on the priority list during Prime Minister John Key's visit to the Chatham Islands late last year. Key highlighted the lack of employment there as a major issue the Government wanted to change, claiming the Government had a goal of improving the islands economy and providing more opportunities for those who lived there.

Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri members believe that establishing employment and opportunities in the mining industry could be the key to revitalising its economy. Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Trust CEO Ward Kamo says anything that provides the island with opportunities to further develop job opportunities for young people will be strongly supported.

Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd has applied for a license to mine the Chatham Rise, a phosphate rich area valued at around $1 billion dollars and Ngāti Mutunga want in on the action. Kamo says their goal is for the younger generations to learn about the industry and all facets involved from the boats to the processing plants providing them with the skills and opportunities to stay on the Island as at this stage many have no choice but to leave.

After major opposition to mining from Māori, oil giant Petrobras withdrew its applications last year to explore opportunities in the Ruakūmara Basin. While Kamo understands there may be environmental risks in mining he believes these risks can be mitigated with effective planning. He says, “Mining is not evil. We live by the motto that is you make a mess, you clean it up. When we are making a village for ourselves we cut trees down. There is always an environmental risk where humans are concerned”.

Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd are hoping to start mining in the area in 2015.

Reporter: Ripeka Timutimu