Crocodile Gold hopes revised plans for open-cut mine in Stawell will be approved

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sherrie Hunt stands at the lookout where it is proposed the mine will be built. Photo: Meredith O’SheaA gold mining company remains hopeful of winning approval for controversial plans for an open-cut mine that was knocked back under the previous state government.

The open-cut Big Hill mine in Stawell would be metres from residents’ houses.

Former planning minister Matthew Guy rejected the project based on an environmental effects inquiry, which raised concerns about air quality and noise.

Canadian company Crocodile Gold bought an existing underground mining operation in Stawell in 2012 and advanced the most recent proposal for the open-cut mine.

Although Crocodile Gold is yet to submit a fresh proposal to the state government The Sunday Age understands it has sought advice on how to proceed with the project.

A spokeswoman for Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio​ said the government supported the decision made under the Coalition to reject the proposal as it stands based on air quality and noise concerns.

“The Victorian government fully appreciates the employment that Crocodile Gold provides to the local community, which is why our departments are working with the proponents to find a mutually acceptable way forward,” she said.

“We are currently waiting for the proponents to come back with a comprehensive plan that will address the air quality issues raised and the government looks forward to engaging with them in due course.”

But shadow planning minister David Davis said the government was confused about the process to follow on the mine proposal and its departments had produced differing messages.

“There’s confusion within the government as to how they will manage this and who is responsible,” he said.

“If it’s going to make further assessments in any project around the state it needs to have clear processes and they don’t have that at the moment.”

Last month Stawell Gold Mines, which is owned by Crocodile Gold, met Ms D’Ambrosio to discuss the open-cut mine project.

In a statement released last month the company confirmed the Big Hill project still involved open-pit mining.

It said primary concerns raised in the assessment of the project included air quality, noise and the possibility of community health impacts.

Stawell Gold Mines general manager Troy Cole said the company had found ways to modify the project to cut overall dust emissions and improve air quality.

“We are working closely with our team of technical experts and government departments to address all the issues raised,” Mr Cole said.

The company has also previously reported that its underground mine employed 215 people on average for the past 10 years, while generating employment and income for other businesses in the wider region.

Retired engineer Ian Magee, who has close knowledge of the proposal, said the company faced enormous challenges to overcome environmental concerns if it wanted to proceed with the open-cut mine.

Mr Magee said it was highly unlikely the project would gain approval because it had already been knocked back twice. The project was rejected in 2000 because of environmental concerns.

Stawell resident Sherrie Hunt said an open-cut mine would be less than 50 metres from her back fence.

“I couldn’t live here and who would buy your house when there’s an open cut pit 50 metres or 40 metres from your back fence,” she said.

She said blasting from the existing underground mine was “horrendous”.

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