Ownership of minerals
The New Zealand government owns all naturally occurring petroleum (including both oil and gas), radioactive minerals, and gold and silver in New Zealand. Any individual or company wanting to prospect, explore or mine these substances must obtain a permit under the Crown Minerals Act 1991 and pay the specified fees and royalties. The same rules apply to coal and all other metallic and non-metallic minerals and aggregates on Crown-owned land.
Mining of minerals and aggregates other than petroleum, radioactive minerals and gold and silver on privately owned land requires the consent of the landowner together with resource consents from local authorities granted under provisions of the Resource Management Act.
Gold without mining
At Massey University, geologist Chris Anderson discovered a novel method of collecting gold – from plants grown on old mining lands with a high gold content. The chemically treated crops soak up the gold and store it in their roots and leaves. Experiments are continuing to see if this method can be developed commercially. If successful it may raise some interesting legal questions about who owns biologically accumulated gold.
Environmental and safety regulation
The Resource Management Act 1991 and its amendments is the major piece of environmental legislation that controls the use of land. It has a comprehensive framework for the development and protection of almost all physical and natural features. Mineral extraction is excluded from the sustainability provision of the act, but as mining invariably involves the use and modification of land, all other parts apply.
Territorial authorities (district and regional councils) are responsible for administering the Resource Management Act. Most authorities have incorporated local rules and guidelines for mineral extraction in their district plans.
Workplace safety is covered by the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. Specific rules for mining are covered in HSE (Mining Administration) Regulations 1996.
Because of the skills required in different aspects of mining as well as the hazards of working with explosives and heavy machinery, qualifications have long been required to undertake many aspects of mineral extraction. In the 19th century the government set up a network of schools of mines that provided practical and theoretical training. The Otago School of Mines, at the University of Otago, produced graduates in mining engineering. These schools have all now closed.
In the 2000s the Extractive Industries Training Organisation (EXITO) provides a range of qualifications covering both underground and opencast mining, mineral and petrochemical processing, use of explosives and electrical engineering.
No university-level education in mining or mining engineering is available in New Zealand, and those who need graduate qualifications must study overseas.