A STATE Government-appointed panel sitting in Stawell will today enter an eighth day hearing submissions about the proposal to mine Big Hill.
The first week has been dominated by project proponents Crocodile Gold (the owner of Stawell Gold Mine), but did include addresses from residents and Northern Grampians Shire Council.
Headed by chairperson Jennifer Moles, the four person Inquiry Panel has also heard from relevant State Government departments and the Environment Protection Authority.
Speaking Wednesday, Stawell business owner Ben Martin told the panel he supports the proposed project and would like to see it given the go-ahead.
Mr Martin said without the project proceeding, his brother and brother-in-law, both mine employees and fathers of young children, would have little option but to move to fly-in fly-out mining and be separated from their young families for extended periods of time.
"I see this as an opportunity, that if the mine went for another five or six years, that everyday those kids get to see their fathers come home," he said.
Mr Martin said in his opinion the project provided council and the mine with the opportunity to develop the Big Hill site.
"I look at Big Hill every day. I live about 200 to 300 metres away from Big Hill... and to be honest, I think Big Hill is quite an eyesore," he said.
Council representative, CEO Justine Linley told the panel that modelling used by council, REMPlan, indicated that the economic benefit and welfare gain for the duration of the project would be far greater than the $38 million forecast in the Economic Impact Study contained in the EES documents.
"Our modelling indicates for the project, a direct increase in output per annum of $88.2 million, that the demand for intermediate goods and services would rise by $14 million," she said.
"Total output, including all direct, industrial and consumption effects are estimated to increase by up to $112 million."
Ms Linley said the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project presents an additional opportunity to extend the life of active mining in Stawell, to provide employment opportunities, retain a skilled workforce and provide ongoing economic benefits to Stawell and the region albeit for a shorter period of time.
"Council considers that the extensive technical studies, risk assessments and planned mitigation measures contained in the EES provide a high level of surety for both Council and the community that the project is able to be implemented safely, within acceptable amenity impacts and with clear measures in place to ensure that the health and wellbeing of residents most directly affected are properly protected," she said.
"The project will also have long-term implications for the landscape of the Big Hill ridge and to a lesser extent surrounding areas. These implications are not necessarily negative as the reinstatement of the hill will remove some existing significant hazards dating back to historic mining activities, thus making the area a safer and more accessible community space.
Ms Linley told the panel that the proposal put forward in the EES that the mine will progressively reinstate and rehabilitate the Big Hill landform, ensuring that both the North Pit and South Pit do not end up as voids, is a positive step.
"As the Project aims to re-build Big Hill, this will enable Stawell as a town to gain a resource that can be as, or more, valuable than the current hill with its current former mining voids, hazards and environmental pests.
"It should be noted that if the project does not go ahead Big Hill would most likely remain in its current state and would deteriorate further over time."
Ms Linley acknowledged the project will have an impact on residential amenity in the short term by way of noise emissions, dust, vibration and visual change.
"In its simplest form the project is a large scale earthmoving project abutting residential and community space," she said.
"As such the amenity of the area does need to be protected and effective and stringent monitoring systems, as proposed by SGM, are imperative."
The hearing, being held at the Federation University Building in Sloane Street, Stawell will resume today before a scheduled recess until next Monday when up to 40 members of the community that requested they be heard will begin fronting the panel.
Questions about the project and updates on the panel hearing and timetable are available at free call number 1800 771 729, email SGM.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.crocgold.com