STAWELL - Investigations are being stepped up into the feasibility of establishing Stawell as a mining centre of excellence.
Northern Grampians Shire Council's Golden Legacy Team has identified potential for the centre of excellence to be established, providing employment and tourism opportunities for Stawell once the underground mining operations cease at Stawell Gold Mines.
Golden Legacy project co-ordinator, Amanda Western, said council was looking at various strategies that would ensure the economic and social wellbeing of Stawell following the mine's closure.
The centre of excellent is a key component within the Golden Legacy project, as it would ensure job retention and business growth.
"One project identified is to investigate the feasibility of establishing Stawell as a centre of excellence for mining operations, mining safety or other emergency response training," Mrs Western said.
Mrs Western said planning for such a development dated back as far as 2007, when recommendations were put forward to develop the mine site once mining ceased.
"In 2007 the Stawell Gold Mine Focus Group was established to inform council of community values, priorities and preferences to guide council decisions in the planning of life and business in Stawell during the times approaching and following the closure of the Stawell Gold Mine," Mrs Western said.
"A report was prepared which identified and prioritised social, economic and land use opportunities for Stawell. Each of these opportunities was fully discussed and assessed for inclusion in the final list of recommendations."
Mrs Western said one of the key recommendations was to seek funding through Regional Development Victoria for a feasibility study into investment possibilities for the gold mine site, including industry, tourism, gold and mineral exploration, agriculture and waste disposal. It was also recommended to develop a land use and an investment profile for the gold mine site in consultation with the mine.
"The Golden Legacy team has held discussions with Regional Development Victoria to progress the development of an initial project proposal along the lines of the above recommendation," Mrs Western said.
"This application will request state government support to fund a feasibility study, specifically into the viability of a mine safety and emergency training centre at Stawell and/or a tourism attraction of some form.
"The feasibility study will determine demand for the product, analyse the constraints and risks, prepare a cost benefit analysis and estimate job creation and the economic impact of the project.
"Possible business models will be identified and assessed for viability. This assessment may lead to the
development of a museum or interpretative centre concept."
Mrs Western said in order to develop the background for the proposal, the Golden Legacy Team was escorted by the Crocodile Gold Occupational Health and Safety Training Manager to assess the historic and current underground workings.
*The uppermost 250 vertical metres of the Stawell Gold Mine is a unique environment offering a peek into the mining works of the 1880s, early 1900s, 1980s and contemporary mining techniques. It has structure to support some form of both a tourism product and a mine safety or emergency management training facility. The viability of such a development, however, will need to be carefully assessed through the proposed feasibility study.
*Investigate the feasibility of Stawell being established as a base for Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) to other mines interstate and/or internationally. A survey was conducted during December 2012 to determine the extent of the Stawell population who are currently involved in long-distance commuting for work purposes. Through the survey results and the established networks, it is estimated that 30 individuals are currently commuting long distances regularly for work in mining from the Stawell district. Seven of these are flying out of Stawell airport, with the majority driving to either Melbourne or Adelaide airports to catch flights to their workplace.