Big Hill clear of protected flora and fauna

Extensive surveys have not revealed any flora or fauna species of national or state significance growing in the area covered by the proposed Big Hill mining operation.

As part of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) required before the project can be considered by the State Government, Stawell Gold Mines (SGM) was asked to verify the presence or absence of nationally listed flora species within the project area, to determine whether the project would need to be assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

This Act allows the Federal Government to work with the states in protecting the natural environment, including plants and animals, water and places of cultural significance.

Stawell Gold Mines General Manager Troy Cole said that three surveys had been conducted, but no nationally listed flora or fauna species had been located within the project area.

"These surveys were conducted in August, September and October during the known flowering periods of 22 national and state significant species," Mr Cole said.

"We actually extended the survey beyond the scope requested by the Federal Government and, because we know many of these species flower at the Deep Lead Flora and Fauna Reserve, we visited that area during the surveys to confirm that we were looking for the plants at the right time of year."

Some species targeted were the McIvor Spider-orchid, Brilliant Sun-orchid and Spiral Sun-orchid.

Mr Cole said that as a result of these surveys, the Federal Government announced that no assessment or approvals of the Big Hill mining project were required under the EPBC Act.

"However as part of the EES, assessment of the flora, fauna and ecological systems on Big Hill will be ongoing," Mr Cole said.

"We will develop a detailed Conservation Management Plan containing several management and mitigation measures that will minimise potential impacts to significant flora and fauna species and ecological systems from the mining project."

The revamped Big Hill Enhanced Development Project, presently being prepared for State Government consideration, would create 80 to 100 jobs at Stawell over a four-to-five year period, including a progressive rehabilitation program. This project would, to some extent, mitigate the closure of Stawell's underground mine which is in progress.

However, Mr Cole said SGM was committed to ensuring the proposed project had as little impact on the natural environment as possible, to meet all criteria requested by the government and to address any fears or concerns raised by the Stawell community.

"This project will only proceed if the regulatory authorities deem it to be environmentally, socially and economically viable," he said.

"Due to our diligence and commitment to the Stawell community, we would like to think it will have the support of that community," Mr Cole said.

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