The mineral potential of New Zealand

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Christie, A.B.; Brathwaite, R.L. 1999 The mineral potential of New Zealand. Lower Hutt: Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences. Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences science report 99/04 84 p.

Abstract: An inventory of New Zealand's mineral resources was made by assembling existing information on resources of individual minerals and by making estimates of undiscovered mineral resources. A unit regional value comparison of New Zealand's mineral production with several other countries and states indicates that New Zealand has considerable undeveloped mineral potential with total past production lagging behind other areas of the world, particularly in metals and non-metals apart from limestone. New Zealand has large resources, although not well quantified, of a range of non-metallic minerals and aggregates, adequate for domestic demand in the foreseeable future. Large resources of coal, ironsand and ilmenite coastal sands have been determined previously by extensive exploration programmes and could support increased and new production for export. We have classified resources of metallic minerals according to international mineral deposit models and these indicate that New Zealand contains a wide variety of mineral deposits types and metals, with a total worth of about NZ$ 86 billion. Undiscovered resources were estimated by a counting method of mineral resource assessment and by use of mineral deposit models to quantify the resources. In addition to current production of gold, silver, iron, and vanadium, there is immediate potential for production of titanium/titania. In the longer term, there is potential for exploration and the discovery of deposits for most metals, although we consider the best potential in the next few years is for gold, silver and platinum group metals, and to a lesser extent copper, zinc and lead. Antimony and tungsten could be produced as byproducts from gold mining. We suggest a scenario whereby New Zealand's value of minerals could increase from the current NZ$1,000, million to more than NZ$2,000 million annually in 2010 by: 1) an increase in production of most non-metallic minerals, aggregate and titanomagnetite ironsands to past maximum annual levels, 2) development of new high value products and markets for bentonite (specialty markets), perlite (filtration and insulation), processed amorphous silica (pozzolan and gerrosilicon), sulphur (fertilizer) and zeolite (catalyst, ion exchanger, waste adsorption, stock feed etc), 3) development of the proposed ilmenite mining operations at Westport and Barrytown, 4) separation of a titanium mineral concentrate from titanomagnetite ironsands at the currently operating mines, 5) an increase in total coal exports with new developments on the West Coast (e.g. Mt Davy and Pike River), 6) exports of groundwater for the overseas bottled water and mineral water markets, 7)expansion of gold and silver production with the discovery and development of two new deposits, and development of known resources at Reefton, and 8) the discovery and development of a platinum deposit. (auth)