Community say on mine
The Stawell community will have a greater voice in any future push to open-cut mine landmark Big Hill following the announcement of a new assessment process.
In October 2014, then Planning Minister Matthew Guy rejected Stawell Gold Mines’ proposal to open-cut mine along Big Hill ridge based on potential health and environment concerns.
The company has since advised the government it intends to submit a revised proposal.
Victorian Resources Minister Wade Noonan last week announced a new process he said would ensure any new plan addressed issues including public health risks, noise and air quality.
He said the state’s mining regulator would establish an independent expert panel to run information sessions, gather written submissions, host public hearings and make recommendations reflecting the advice of the proposed project’s 2014 environment effects statement.
Mr Noonan said residents would be able to engage in community legal education workshops and information sessions and obtain guidance on drafting submissions.
“Any new proposal for a mine at Big Hill will be carefully scrutinised, and this new assessment process means local communities will have a voice at the table,” he said.
“We will consider any plan that generates jobs and economic activity in the Stawell community, but it must balance public health and environmental concerns – this is not negotiable.”
Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Tony Driscoll said the government’s decision to overhaul the assessment process for Big Hill would provide much-needed certainty to the community.
“Mining has been an important part of our history and since the proposal to create an open-cut gold mine at Big Hill was rejected in 2014 there has been an element of uncertainty in our community,” he said.
“This process will allow the community to play a proactive role and provide them with the support to do so.
“It will also give them assurances that the project will not proceed unless health and environmental concerns are addressed.”
Cr Driscoll said the council was committed to developing job and investment opportunities following Stawell Gold Mines’ announcement late last year the mine would enter a care and maintenance phase.
“Since the announcement we have been working tirelessly to generate job growth and investment opportunities in the region,” he said.
“We have been working in partnership with the Victorian government and Stawell Gold Mines to attract Nectar Farms to the region, which is expected to create 300 jobs in four years.
“We have also worked in partnership with the Victorian government to develop the effective Jobs for Stawell program.
“If Big Hill proceeds it will create between 80-100 direct jobs for the region.”
The government’s Earth Resources Regulation will continue to monitor the Stawell Gold Mine site and make regular inspections.
The government will also establish a grants program to fund community legal education and assistance services for residents and groups who want to participate in the assessment.