Canadian gold miner Crocodile Gold is pressing ahead with the development of the Big Hill open pit project at Stawell in western Victoria.
The company has started the process of getting approval from the Victorian Government.
It plans to process 2.3 million tonnes of ore to recover more than 108,000 ounces of gold.
Crocodile Gold took over the Big Hill Project after it bought the Stawell Gold Mine in May last year.
Community opposition forced the abandonment of plans for an open cut in the same area a decade ago.
This open cut will remove the main landmark for the town (Big Hill), with the promise of subsequent rehabilitation of the hill. The project will cover 36 hectares.
Residential areas directly abut the project site to the south-west and north. Additionally, parts of the Big Hill ridge are currently part of a recreational reserve that is accessible to the public.
This proposal is unusual in that it would place open-cut mining and back-fill operations in close proximity to many houses, a number of schools, and other important community infrastructure.
Further details of the proposed project can be found under the title “Big Hill Enhanced Development Project” lodged by Crocodile Gold as an environmental assessment referral on the Victorian Government’s website available here.
[the image comes from the successful campaign against the earlier proposal for an open cut mine on Big Hill]
There have now been a series of meetings with residents around the proposed open cut. On April 17, around 150 people attended a public forum to express concerns about the mine. There is a news story about this meeting from the Stawell Times available here.
To support or get active in the campaign get in touch with the locals: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please sign the petition opposing the mine, available here.
We want to be able to do more to support this campaign. If you can help, please check here.
The Planning Minister has now decided that the proposal needs to go through a full Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process. This gives opportunity for the community to express it's concerns.
In July 2013 the Department released the Draft Scoping Requirements for the Environment Effects Statement (EES). The Scoping Requirements set out the matters to be investigated and documented in the EES. The Draft Scoping Requirements are available for public comment from Friday 19 July 2013.
You can find details on the scoping document here.
Concerns about this project
The company has told the community that the open pit will have a life of 4 to 5 years.
Dust levels and public health. Although these are promised to be kept within prescribed levels, many residents are concerned about the fact that they will be exposed to dust over a considerable period of time. They fear the prospect of resulting health effects, both long term and short term.
Check the map available here to see how close the open cut will be to houses.
The proposed open cut is in close proximity to two schools. Stawell Secondary College and St. Patricks Primary School are both within a few hundred metres of the operation.
Tailings. Additional information is needed about how the tailings from the mine will be managed.
Water use. Gold production is a water intensive process. It is not yet clear where the water for such a major operation will come from.
Large volumes of water will also be required for dust suppression along roadways and in the mining area.
Loss of amenity. Big Hill is a key feature of the town. The company has told the community that they will fill the void of the southern pit and replace Big Hill… “...only if the prices remain strong”. If prices do not remain strong then what happens?
If Big Hill is replaced, the company has promised to revegetate the hill. However it can be expected that the community will have to deal with a dusty hill, devoid of vegetation for years to come.
Employment. The company has said that the mine will bring 80 to100 jobs, however Crocodile mining does not own the above ground equipment and will likely tender out the contract. The company that takes on the contract will probably already have their own employees trained in open pit operations, meaning that not many of these jobs will be for locals from Stawell.
Meanwhile, it can be expected that tourism will be negatively impacted by a large above ground mining operation operating within the township.