STAWELL - Organisers of a public meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the proposal by Stawell Gold Mines to open cut mine Big Hill, have urged the community to speak out with their concerns.
Residents raised a wide range of concerns throughout the meeting, which lasted close to two hours at the Stawell Entertainment Centre.
At the conclusion, chairman Barry Clugston called on residents in attendance, to go away and think about what outcome they would want to see for the benefit of Stawell.
Mr Clugston said he certainly did not want to see Stawell divided over the proposal, or any other issue that may face the community.
"I know we will hear a lot more about this. This meeting will by no means be the end of discussion," Mr Clugston said.
"There will be lots more discussion as we digest all the information that has been presented and we learn more about the processes that are involved.
"It will allow us to work towards a good outcome for the community of Stawell."
Members of the Friends of Big Hill group, who organised the public meeting, also called on residents to have their say in the form of signing a petition and writing letters to various people in authority, including the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy.
Group member, Estelle Hirst, said it was vital the people of Stawell had a voice.
"We need to have a stronger voice," Mrs Hirst said.
"People need to send letters to the Minister, to the council. Go for it and be heard.
"Contact details will be made available for these people, so I would urge residents to send in a letter and let them know your thoughts."
Wednesday night's meeting followed on from a meeting Northern Grampians Shire Council had with residents living in Fisher Street.
From that meeting, a list of questions were compiled and questions were raised on Wednesday as to when answers would be received.
Shire Mayor, Cr Wayne Rice, said many of the questions required technical answers and therefore, they had been referred to relevant authorities, including GWM Water, the Country Fire Authority and Environment Protection Authority.
"The questions we can answer ourselves, we are currently working through and these answers will be provided," Cr Rice said.
"However, the more technical questions on areas that are not within our fields of expertise, have been referred to the relevant authorities."
Cr Rice was also asked at the meeting on Wednesday night what council was doing to attract new industry to Stawell.
He said council was working vigorously in a number of areas, including opportunities to establish an underground mine training facility and continuing the push to establish Stawell as a fly-in, fly-out base for mine employees.
"There are also tourism opportunities that exist, but our main concern is the lack of trade schools. We have missed out on so much because of that," Cr Rice said.
"We are working hard to try and bring more people into the shire. This, we know can be achieved by attracting new business and more investment to the shire, so we are not relying on one industry and one industry alone."