Shire backs pit proposal

STAWELL - A proposal by Stawell Gold Mines to pursue the open cut mining of Big Hill, has won the in principle support of Northern Grampians Shire Council.

Council met in St Arnaud on Monday night and voted 6-1 in favour of offering in principle support for the mine to continue pursuing the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project. Cr Karen Hyslop was the only councillor who voted against the motion.

Cr Hyslop said she had reservations about the open cut mining of Big Hill.

"As a councillor, I don't wish to offer support for Stawell Gold Mines to pursue the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project," Cr Hyslop said.

"I do have reservations about possible open cuts and I will speak later about the reservations that I have."

Councillors accepted an invitation last week to undertake a tour of the underground mining operation and to hear from management, a detailed outline of the proposal for the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project.

This followed advice received by council in January from Stawell Gold Mines, that it intended to lodge an Environmental Effects Statement referral to the Victorian Government, to determine the approvals process it would need to follow if it pursues a project to extend its mining operations into the Big Hill area.

Council was asked to support the mine in its endeavours to pursue the project, which will provide between 80 and 100 jobs, produce 2.3 million tons of ore and expand the mine's operations by four to five years.

The timeline for the project would also include an extensive rehabilitation program.

This will be the second time an application has been made to open cut mine Big Hill. The first application, lodged in 1999, was rejected by the Labor State Government following an extensive Environmental Effects Statement process.

Cr Paul Russell said he felt privileged to be invited to take the underground mine tour last week and he moved that council provide in principle support for Stawell Gold Mines to pursue the project. The motion contained two conditions, that the support from council be subject to:

The completion of further impact assessment studies.

A clear demonstration by Stawell Gold Mines that the community, environmental and economic benefits clearly outweigh any detrimental impacts.

"Having only lived in the area for a short time, it is obvious to me that the mining company has invested a lot of money in the Northern Grampians Shire and the Stawell township," Cr Russell said.

Cr Russell said in discussions with councillors, Stawell Gold Mines general manager Troy Cole had stressed that where possible, he was keen to use local companies to supply goods and services that would be required as part of the project.

"Unfortunately, all resources come to an end and that is exactly what's happening with the underground gold mine. As a result, people are unfortunately losing their jobs," he said.

"The proposal to open cut mine Big Hill is similar to the previous application, but there are obviously quite a few differences, particularly the rehabilitation of the area.

"Part of our tour included a visit to Big Hill, where we had a look around the carpark and old mine shafts. I must say that being from Halls Gap, I thought Big Hill's resources would have been a lot more usable, but actually standing on the hill and looking at it, other than the carpark and the monument, anything else you can't use.

"Any future mining and then rehabilitation of the area, at this point in time we have a good argument to push for the area to be rehabilitated in such a way that it can become a useful space for the Stawell community.

"Therefore I think we should be supporting Stawell Gold Mines in its proposal to open cut Big Hill.

"Personally, I support the idea. I understand there will be some people in the community who will be favour of this project and there will be some people opposed. I understand too there will be some people heavily impacted, a lot more than other people.

"But I think as a council, we have to do what is best for the entire area and taking that into consideration, the proposal presented by Stawell Gold Mines should be supported by this council."

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