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Most arsenic-contaminated mine cleaned up

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/12/2016

The country's most arsenic-contaminated mine is now safe for the public after an intensive clean-up.

The Prohibition gold mine, at Waiuta, near Reefton on the West Coast, operated from 1938 and 1951 and was inherited by the Department of Conservation in 1987.

Its clean-up, estimated to cost about $2.6 million, started in August and DOC says water tests now show the site is safe for the public to visit, and that arsenic leaching in the environment has stopped.

During the process, 96 barrels of highly arsenic contaminated material were moved from the site.

DOC western South Island operations director Mark Davies says the area has a fascinating social and industrial history that deserves to be shared with visitors.

"The site is now ready for us to develop a mining history experience that will complement our existing network of attractions such as Denniston and the Brunner Mine Site," he said.

The mine became contaminated as a result of a process used to extract gold from rock that also contained arsenic.

It was abandoned in 1951 after the main shaft collapsed.

While highly toxic materials from the site have been taken to a special disposal facility, less contaminate material was moved to a low-lying area of the site lined with waste rock that binds to the arsenic and stops it from spreading.

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