STAWELL - Stawell Gold Mines General Manager Troy Cole said the extensive community consultation program the company has undertaken has been valuable in gaining an understanding of the Stawell community's perception of the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project.
Mr Cole said information has been generated by a number of activities including two community drop-in sessions, one-on-one meetings with landowners and residents in the vicinity of Big Hill and a stakeholder workshop.
"We are mindful of the importance of Big Hill to the region and understand that some members of the community will have different project perspectives," Mr Cole said.
"By consulting widely, listening carefully and acting according to public interest, we believe we can contribute to Stawell's golden heritage in a way that minimises social and environmental impacts during the course of the project and maximises the result by providing employment opportunities, a strong economy and a rehabilitation project that returns Big Hill to its current landform and provides 32 hectares of open space at Big Hill that enhances Stawell as a place to live and visit."
As a result of investigations into the feasibility of extending its mining operations into the Big Hill area, Stawell Gold Mines has lodged an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) Referral with the Victorian Planning Minister relating to Big Hill to determine the approvals process it will need to follow to pursue the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project.
Stawell Gold Mines is waiting on a response from the State Government.
Mr Cole said the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project will follow the closure of the underground mining operations and provide employment opportunities, retain a skilled workforce and provide ongoing benefits to Stawell and the wider region.
The four to five-year project would create 80 to 100 jobs.
"The Big Hill Enhanced Development Project has been proposed previously but this is a new project, one that minimises the impact on community and develops a strong rehabilitation and landscape amenity plan."
Mr Cole said about 210 people had attended the community drop-in sessions over both days, 50 out of 235 businesses and organisations had taken up the invitation to attend the stakeholder workshop and almost 100 one-on-one resident interviews have been undertaken.
"Through these discussions we are getting a clearer understanding of the key areas of concern with regard to the mine operation and a clearer understanding of what residents want from the rehabilitation project."
The main points coming out of the community and stakeholder consultation sessions to date are:
Just over half of the residents interviewed said a 'good outcome' for the project would be Big Hill's rehabilitation program and enhanced recreation area following the mining program.
Currently the tree top negatives associated with Big Hill are that it is an eyesore, dangerous and under utilised. The tree top positives are viewing area to the Grampians, a tourist attraction and its use as a recreation and fitness area.
The top three concerns associated with the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project are dust, noise and financial/property value impacts while the major benefit is seen as the contribution to the local and regional economy.
Mr Cole said a Project Update will be distributed to Stawell residents and businesses in the coming weeks that will include more details of the consultation outcomes.
In addition, it will be published on its website.
"We understand the concern about the impact of the mine's closure and loss of jobs as well as the potential impact of ongoing mining and are committed to keeping the community informed and engaged," he said.
"We will work together to consider options to effectively sustain mining in our community."
Mr Cole encouraged residents to complete a Feedback Form if they haven't already done so. The Feedback Forms can be found at www.crocgold.com/bighill.