New Zealand is the largest country on a continental crust block (Zealandia) that extends from New Caledonia in the North to the Campbell Plateau in the south, about 2000 km south of the southern tip of the New Zealand mainland.
New Zealand has a short human habitation history of about 700y initially settled from Eastern Polynesia between 1320 – 1350 by the Māori. The Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman was the first European to visit in 1642. Subsequently the British explorer, James Cook, mapped and documented New Zealand between 1769 through the 1770s and in 1840 New Zealand became a British Colony.
Minerals sector activity in New Zealand began with Māori trade in Pounamu, obsidian and chert. Pounamu is a variety of jade derived from metamorphic mafic to ultramafic rocks that occur in restricted areas throughout the South Island of New Zealand. Pounamu in New Zealand is the property of Ngāi Tahu, the Iwi (tribe) that represent South Island Māori. Pounamu was traded throughout New Zealand by Māori and was highly valued for jewelry, tools and weapons.
In the 1860s gold rushes began in Otago and swept throughout Southland, West Coast, Nelson and Coromandel areas of New Zealand. The gold rushes more than doubled the population of New Zealand in about 5 years in the early 1860s. The regions where gold rushes occurred remain the key mining and exploration areas in New Zealand.
Population growth from gold rushes and a growing agricultural sector drove industrialization and mines of other types were established, mercury, antimony, iron, lead, copper, zinc and coal.
The current New Zealand minerals sector is mostly based around coal, iron, pounamu, lignite and gold mining as well as quarrying for industrial minerals including limestone, aggregates, clays and zeolites. New Zealand geology is diverse exploration programmes for rare earth elements, Cu Ni sulphide, PGE, lithium, ilmenite, garnets and other metals or minerals are variably active as global supply and demand for these commodities change.