Panel hearings on Big Hill proposal commence

A State Government-appointed panel will begin hearing submissions on the proposal to mine Big Hill at Stawell on Wednesday.

Panel hearings on the proposal to open cut mine Big Hill will commence next Wednesday.

Panel hearings on the proposal to open cut mine Big Hill will commence next Wednesday.

About 44 people have asked to be heard by the panel. They, along with relevant State Government departments, the Environment Protection Authority and the project proponents Crocodile Gold (the owner of Stawell Gold Mine), will make submissions to the panel over about 11 days.

The hearing will start at 10am on Wednesday, July 2, in the Federation University Building, Sloane Street, Stawell. 

When assessing the feasibility of operating two open-cut mines on Big Hill over a five-year period combined with the planned rehabilitation of the area in conjunction with the Stawell community, the panel will consider the applications made at the hearing, the 350 written submissions made in response to the Environmental Effects Statement completed on the project, the proponent's submissions and any experts on whom it wishes to call. The hearing will incorporate site visits. 

Headed by chairperson Jennifer Moles, the four-person Inquiry Panel held a directions hearing at Stawell early this month to establish procedures for the panel hearing. 

Stawell Gold Mine General Manager Troy Cole this week welcomed the imminent start to the panel hearing and encouraged any interested parties to attend.

"This hearing is open to the public and we would encourage anyone interested in the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project to come along and learn first hand how the project will operate, how it will benefit Stawell and how the community can be involved with the rehabilitation of Big Hill.

"This hearing will cover all aspects of the proposal, from noise, blasting, rehabilitation, economics and social impacts to air quality assessment and peer review, public health effects and real time air emissions monitoring and response.

"Anything anyone wants to know about the proposal will be addressed over the 11 or so days," Mr Cole said.

"Once the hearings are complete, the panel will take a number of weeks to report to the Minister for Planning who will make a decision on the proposal."

Stawell Gold Mines announced plans in January last year, to investigate the feasibility of extending its mining operations into the Big Hill area. The company lodged an Environment Effects Statement (EES) Referral with the Victorian Government for the Big Hill site, to determine the approvals process it would need to follow if it pursues the project.

It was then announced in May by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, that an Environment Effects Statement would be required for the project.

Stawell Gold Mines has since stepped up consultation on the project, keeping the community informed as it awaited the release of the EESdocuments in March this year.

The next step in the process was to accept submissions on the EES in preparation for the commencement of the directions hearing and now panel hearing starting on Tuesday.

Mr Cole said the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project would:

● Create 80 to 100 jobs.

● Be a four to five year project, including the rehabilitation program.

● Consist of two open pits - the north pit and the south pit. The north pit will be mined first and rehabilitation will follow soon after.

● Retain and protect significant heritage sites and reinstate removed historical memorials.

● Produce 2.3 million tonnes of ore.

● Commit to minimising the noise, dust and blasting effects based on the recommendations of the respective technical impact assessments once completed.

● Commence rehabilitation late in year two that includes completely filling the open pits and reinstating Big Hill with native vegetation.

● Develop a rehabilitation program that will improve amenity to surrounding properties as the open space created will attract visitors and residents.

Mr Cole reiterated Stawell Gold Mine's desire to work with the Stawell community on this project.

"This project is mutually beneficial to Stawell and our company - it will create employment, bring people to the area and lead to the rehabilitation of Big Hill itself," he said.

Questions about the Project and updates on the panel hearing and timetable are available at freecall number 1800 771 729, emailSGM.enquiries@crocgold.com.au or visit www.crocgold.com

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