Com­mu­nity say on mine

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

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.

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