STAWELL - Stawell Gold Mines (SGM) has undertaken a visual and landscape impact assessment as part of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) into the proposed Big Hill Enhanced Development project.
Big Hill is prominent both physically and culturally given its proximity to the Stawell township, history, the range of memorial structures on its peak and the view it affords.
SGM said it understands the visual importance of Big Hill to the Stawell community given its presence in town over the last 150 years.
The assessment examines the potential impacts of the proposed project on the existing landscape and views to Big Hill and the surrounding area.
Three key visual aspects of the project were considered:
The short to medium term impact of mining activities along the western side of the Big Hill ridge line.
The permanent relocation of the telecommunications tower and fire watch building from the top of Big Hill along the ridge exceeding from the south-east of Big Hill.
The temporary storage of waste rock behind the Big Hill ridge adjacent to Crowlands Road.
The visual assessment looks at the potential impact of the project in terms of scale, extent and value.
Scale assesses the impact of the change to the existing view, while extent assesses how many people will be affected by the change to the view.
Value assesses the importance of the visual landmark to the town of Stawell.
As part of the impact assessment, a series of photos were taken from locations around Stawell that provide immediate views (typically 1km) of the project area.
The visual impact of mining on Big Hill was modelled at various stages, including Year 2 (when North Pit is at its deepest and mining has commenced in the South Pit).
The overall visual impact of the project is minimised by the fact during the mining operation the ridgeline of Big Hill remains intact to a large degree.
As a result, the visual impact of the project from most viewpoints around Stawell is more of disturbed surfaces than removal of the hill profile and ridgeline.
The overall visual impact of the project is further reduced by the progressive rehabilitation of the site as mining progresses with the North Pit fully mined in Year 2 and reinstated to original topography up to three years ahead of the project finish.
The rehabilitated Big Hill has the potential to be a visual improvement compared to Big Hill in its current condition and become an enhanced community asset.
The results of the visual and landscape impact assessment will be published as part of the forthcoming EES exhibition and public comment period.