Mine visits by the Minister of Regional Development and Resources are not publicized

By Lee Scanlon from the Westport News

Shane Jones

Shane Jones yesterday made unadvertised visits to Federation Mining’s Snowy River gold project and Roa Mining’s Rajah opencast coal mine.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Resources and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones visited two mines on the west coast on Thursday, without revealing the visits until later, and then had a private lunch with mining industry representatives.

His only previously announced engagement on the West Coast yesterday was his speech in Blackball about the government’s plans to boost mining.

The minister, who has been criticized for his close ties to the mining industry, told the Westport News You couldn’t care less if people think those relationships are too cozy.

Shane Jones on visits to west coast mines

Shane Jones during a visit to one of the mines.
Photo: Facebook/Shane Jones

He Westport News He contacted his office on Tuesday after reports that the Coast visit included Buller. His office said the minister had a private meeting scheduled in Buller and that he would discuss it later, but he did not want advance publicity for “security” reasons, given that protests were already planned in Blackball.

However, Jones told the Westport News yesterday he had avoided prior publicity because he did not want the media to accompany him “like a kind of public circus.”

He said he had spent about 90 minutes at Federation Mining’s Snowy River gold project near Reefton and then visited Roa Mining’s Rajah opencast coal mine north of Greymouth.

Jones said he had been interested to see how Federation Mining had spent the $15 million it received from the Provincial Growth Fund when he was PGF minister.

He met the vice-president of Sydney-based Federation Mining, Simon Delander, and ventured about a kilometer underground.

Asked whether private visits to mines reinforced the perception of his cozy relationship with miners, Jones said he couldn’t help but meet industry representatives in “all contexts.”

“Socially, I meet them at rugby. I go see them at their offices. I invite them to my office.

“Frankly, I don’t think I can do much to overcome the perception that there is a cozy relationship between myself and the fishing and mining industries.

“But it doesn’t bother me one bit, because in this game I’ve learned the hard way that the best way to hide is out in the open.”

Shane Jones Visits West Coast Mines

Shane Jones gives a thumbs up after an underground trip.
Photo: Facebook/Shane Jones

Jones also revealed that he had lunch with “a whole group of miners” in Blackball yesterday.

Asked if the lunch had been recorded in his ministerial diary, he said his office had insisted that everyone present be recorded.

His office provided a list of 10 people who attended the private lunch at a cafeteria.

They were: Francois Tumahai (Ngāti Waewae and Bathurst Resources), Richard Tacon, Fiona Bartier (Bathurst Resources), Alison Paul (Oceana Gold), Patrick Phelps (Minerals West Coast), Lincoln Smith (Terra Firma Mining), Phil McKinnel (Birchfield ). Coal Mines), Mike Meehan (New Zealand Minerals and Materials Research Institute), Robert Brand (TiGa Minerals and Metals), Simon Delander (Mining Federation).

Two of the representatives, Delander and Bathurst Resources chief executive Richard Tacon, also attended a private dinner with Jones and Stevenson Mining Group vice-chairman Barry Bragg on the west coast in February. Jones did not record the dinner in his ministerial diary until Newsroom asked questions about it.

Stevenson Mining and Bathurst Resources are looking to use the government’s proposed fast-track process for their Buller projects.

Jones defended himself yesterday by incorrectly telling Parliament earlier this month that the Westport News supported the government’s opinion on mining. The newspaper has never expressed an opinion on mining.

“You’re dealing with politicians, get over it…” he said yesterday. “You’re dealing with political rhetoric, and if you, as an editor, haven’t figured that out, then you have a lot more to learn about how to do your job.

“We politicians are always using hyperbole and rhetoric.”

Jones said his comments to Parliament should be seen as “akin to the political wind of God speaking, and let the wind blow those comments away.”

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