STAWELL - Stawell Gold Mines is investigating the feasibility of extending its mining operations into the Big Hill area.
Mine General Manager Troy Cole said that as a result of its investigations, Stawell Gold Mines has lodged an Environment Effects Statement (EES) Referral with the Victorian Government for the Big Hill site to determine the approvals process it would need to follow if it pursues the project.
"The company is currently in a transition phase with underground operations drawing to a close," Mr Cole said.
"We are examining options to extend the Mine life that will preserve local mining jobs and maintain economic stability.
"One of the options we are considering is the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project which will enable an extension of mining operations and provide employment opportunities, retain a skilled workforce and provide ongoing benefits to Stawell and the wider region.
The Big Hill Enhanced Development Project would create 80 to 100 jobs and is a four to five year project including a progressive rehabilitation program.
"The Big Hill Development Program has been proposed previously," Mr Cole said.
"With this new proposal we will achieve better outcomes by minimising the impact on the community and developing a stronger rehabilitation and landscape amenity plan."
Mr Cole said that while this project has been proposed before, this is an enhanced project with the major difference being the full reinstatement of all pit voids and Big Hill to its original landforms once mining is completed.
"We are excited about the opportunities that exist with the rehabilitation of Big Hill following the mining phase and we will consult with the local community, stakeholders and local government to determine the best possible use of the land following the mining phase," he said.
"Opportunities to be considered may include a mining museum or interpretative centre, walking and bike trails or picnic areas.
"Regardless, Big Hill will be a community shaped asset for Stawell.
"We are mindful of the importance of Big Hill to the region and the value it represents.
"We are excited about the opportunities that this project presents to the Stawell region and our ability to continue to contribute to the region's golden heritage.
"Equally, we recognise there is potential for mining operations to have some localised impacts and we are committed to an operation that does not result in unacceptable amenity impacts."
Mr Cole said the company has commenced an extensive community consultation program this week and would be talking and listening to the community throughout the process.
"We understand their concern about the impact of the Mine's closure and loss of jobs; as well as potential impacts of ongoing mining," he said.
"We are committed to keeping the community informed and engaged and will work with them to consider options to effectively sustain mining in our community."
Mr Cole said the project would not proceed if the regulatory authorities do not deem it to be environmentally, socially or economically viable.
"If the project proceeds, its commencement date is dependent upon the timing of obtaining all necessary environmental and planning approvals from the government.”