STAWELL - Stawell Gold Mine has requested the support of Northern Grampians Shire Council as it seeks to revisit the potential to mine Big Hill in Stawell.
Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Wayne Rice, said council was notified of Stawell Gold Mine's intention late last week and would formally discuss the request for support of the concept at its next ordinary meeting on February 4.
"From our initial briefing, we understand the project will take on a significantly different form to that presented more than ten years ago," he said.
"At this point in time, council has not formally considered the project as it is currently in the hands of the Minister for Planning.
"With that process now underway, we will seek to have the matter listed for preliminary discussion at our next meeting."
Cr Rice said councillors would participate in a site visit to the mine to prepare for the meeting.
"At the moment what we have before us is a request from Stawell Gold Mine to support them in pursuing the project," he said.
"As described to us, the project upon completion will return Big Hill to its original typography, extending the mine life by some four or so years and employing between 80 and 100 people. While we would welcome further employment and investment in Stawell, council does not wish to pre-empt any decision or consideration by the State Government.
"We will of course be taking community opinion into consideration and discussing the matter further at the February 4 meeting."
Stawell Gold Mines announced last week that it was investigating the feasibility of extending its mining operations into the Big Hill area.
General Manager Troy Cole said the first step inn the process had been to lodge 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.
He said the company had received the green light from its board to carry out the investigations and work through the necessary processes.
"We know the question will be asked as to why are we revisiting this now," Mr Cole said.
"The company is currently in a transition phase with underground operations drawing to a close.
"We are examining options to extend the mine life that will preserve local mining jobs and maintain economic stability. We have decided to revisit the possibility of mining Big Hill, as stronger economics and the current gold price allow us to develop an enhanced and exciting project that includes an extensive rehabilitation plan."
Mr Cole said the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project would enable an extension of mining operations and provide employment opportunities, retain a skilled workforce and provide ongoing benefits to Stawell and the wider region.
He said it was anticipated the project could create 80 to 100 jobs and extend the mining operations in Stawell by five years.
Mr Cole said as part of the project planning, the company had addressed several areas of concern that had been raised during the previous application.
These include ensuring waste stockpiles will not encroach on vegetation with a high conservation value, that all pit voids be reinstated, that Big Hill be returned to its original landforms once mining is completed and that potential social impacts are addressed.
Mr Cole said the mine would work closely with local government and the community to determine the best possible use of the land following the mining phase.
"Stawell Gold Mines remain committed to leaving a legacy that represents the region's strong golden history," he said.
Opportunities that will be considered during the consultation phase will include a mining museum or interpretive centre to attract visitors and schools, walking and bike trails for local residents or monuments.
Significant heritage memorial sites, including the Pioneer memorial rotunda, will be retained, protected and reinstated and an interpretation of historical features will be provided.
The Big Hill Enhanced Development Project will:
* Create 80 to 100 jobs
* Be a four to five year project, including the rehabilitation program.
* Consist of two open pits - the north pit and the south pit. The north pit will be mined first and rehabilitation will follow soon after,
* Retain and protect significant heritage sites and reinstate removed historical memorials.
* Produce 2.3 million tonnes of ore.
* Commit to minimising the noise, dust and blasting effects based on the recommendations of the respective technical impact assessments once completed.
* Commence rehabilitation late in year two that includes completely filling the open pits and reinstating Big Hill with native vegetation.
* Develop a rehabilitation program that will improve amenity to surrounding properties as the open space created will attract visitors and residents.