New fast-track consenting legislation will allow projects like a large gold mine in Central Otago to go ahead more quickly, while still ensuring environmental protections are in place, the Minister for Resources Shane Jones says.

Australian Stock Exchange-listed company Santana Minerals said more promising results from drill testing of a proposed mine at the company’s existing 272sqkm Bendigo-Ophir project near Tarras could yield between 100,000oz and 150,000oz of gold each year — which would equate to a minimum of $325million a year under current gold pricing.

It is still early days, with the mining permit pending and the resource consent application yet to be filed — but landowners near the site have made agreements with the company to allow mining there.

Santana Minerals chief executive Damian Spring on Wednesday told RNZ the new “pro-mining government” and its repeal of Labour’s Natural and Built Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act, in December, gave certainty to progress the project.

The company briefed Mr Shane Jones about the project last month.

“They have their private obligations, to mobilise the capital, etc, but I assured them that our government is certainly keen to see a lot more activity in the mining sector,” Mr Jones said.

He hoped the incoming legislation to allow ministers to fast-track consent applications for projects of significant economic and regional interest would come through Parliament late next month.

“I want to, in 2024, convince investors, convince the industry, that I can deliver a level of certainty for them, so they can spend their own money and secure the consents within the statutory framework passing for resource management and mining,” he said.

Mr Jones said New Zealanders could be assured projects would still be held accountable for environmental protections and mitigation.

“We’re at a crossroads in terms of climate change policy.

“Mining is absolutely essential for a credible climate change response in terms of rare earth minerals — absolutely necessary for decarbonisation,” he said.

“And there are always trade-offs. I’m going to ensure that those trade-offs are put in front of the people of our nation and decided upon on the basis of science, economics and a robust understanding as to what are the cost benefits in terms of going right or left.”

Santana Minerals said it aimed to have the resource consent application lodged by the end of this year.

In 2020, Santana Minerals bought Matakanui Gold, which had exploration permits at Bendigo-Ophir, and drilling and infill drilling continued in 2021.

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