The currently-understood cut-off date for submissions to the Department of Planning and Environment, on the proposed modification to the Dargues gold mine, is today.
Those who might be rushing to have a submission completed by close of business today would be grateful to learn that they now have until 7 January. Editors NOTE: Peter Cormick has since been advised by Phillipa Duncan, Team Leader, Resource and Energy Assessments, Department of Planning & Environment that there is NO ability to make an online lodgement after 19 December 2018 and any correspondence received after today (via email or post) will not be treated as a formal submission – however the Department will still consider any information provided, in its assessment. The Eurobodalla Council was advised of the Modification application and HAS NOT advised the community in any way for submissions. The latest Modification to the Project Approval for the Dargues Gold Mine at Majors Creek.
Peter Cormick reports: Yesterday, I attended the 'Gold mine meeting' of the Dargues Community Consultative Committee (DCCC, or simply CCC). This brief, summary report may be of interest to your readers.
The meeting took place at the Majors Creek community hall and was preceded by a 1 hour site visit by CCC members, which involved an inspection of the newly proposed truck crossing over Spring Creek. The proposed crossing is about 400 m north of the already-approved crossing and the mine company, Dargues Gold Mine (DGM), is seeking approval of this proposal through what is known as Modification 4. Readers can see what other modifications to the original Project Approval have taken place at this website.
Last Friday I had emailed the Department of Planning and Environment, asking questions about the exhibition of the Mod 4 proposal and whether the exhibition period could be extended from the advertised close-off date of 19 December (tomorrow). The result has been that an extension has been allowed and submissions will be accepted up to 7 January. While the Department has not given this specific date, instead advising that submissions will be accepted "over the Christmas/New Year period", the CCC chairman advised that this phrase will be taken to mean 'by 7 January'. He will be making contact with the Department to ensure that this interpretation is accepted by the Department, but advised CCC members that we may all be "absolutely confident" that submissions will be accepted up to 7 January and that we should feel free to disseminate this new close-off date. (The CCC chairman, Brian Elton, is very well connected with the Department). I have also asked the relevant planning officer to please ensure that the Department's website will allow uploading of submissions up to 7 January - and not close-off, tomorrow. The link to the Modification documentation, is here.
At the end of our site inspection it was agreed by all CCC members who spoke on the matter or simply nodded in agreement (and that was essentially all of the CCC members, if not all) that the relocated crossing, involving vastly less earthworks and therefore commensurately less impact on the local environment, is to be preferred to the location of the currently-approved crossing. My own final position on this proposal was dependent on the view formed by Matt Darwon, a prominent resident of Majors Creek, who has for some months now, been speaking to the company, including between CCC meetings, on behalf of all residents of MC, about the noise from the mine site, and ways to mitigate it. Following the site visit, he said that in his view the proposed crossing is a "much better solution" than the currently approved crossing. Prior to the site visit, he was concerned that, because of the higher elevation of the crossing, there would be increased noise transmission and lights from the trucks shining down onto the village. He assessed that the land forms surrounding the route, would prevent such a scenario and expressed support for the Modification - as I have done.
As one would expect, noise is a huge issue for the residents of the small Majors Creek hamlet and one that we, in the quieter parts of this shire, in the Deua River Valley, for example, are so very lucky to have been spared. Whatever mine-generated noise is experienced in MC, it will also be experienced by a number of senior mine staff, who have taken up residence in the township!
At this early stage in the project the main noise source is that of the exhaust fan at the main tunnel entrance. (The tunnel is now over 500m in length and about 70 m below the surface. Its final length will be about 5.5 km, at a depth of about 500 m. As a reminder, mining operations have been approved up until 30 June 2025). The processing infrastructure has not yet been built but when it is completed - with crushing shed, milling etc - the noise level will of course be far greater.
The company advised that finance for the project is due to be finalised by the end of this week and so it can be expected that there will be a significant increase in activity from that point on. Presently there are 24 full time staff working on site; 20 live locally.
Returning again to the Mod 4 matter, at the meeting, the company apologised for the timing of the exhibition - abutting the Christmas period, as it does - and gave a detailed explanation of why that occurred. In a nutshell, we were told that the company had been waiting on legal advice in relation to the proposed modification, before it could lodge the application with the Department; and that the advice was very delayed and, hence, delayed the timing of lodgement with the Department. We can expect to see the full explanation in the meeting's minutes when they are uploaded onto the company's website, in about 4 weeks time.
Whether to make a submission or not is of course up to each individual. While I support the proposal, I will delve further into the Statement of Environmental Effects, provided as part of the Mod 4 process, and its appendices, and may decide that comments on aspects of the proposal are warranted, in spite of my support.
Another matter dealt with at the meeting was that of consultation by the company, with the CCC. It was a subject I asked to have included on the agenda and after I spoke to it, referring all present to the requirements of the CCC Guidelines on this subject, as issued by the Department, the chairman put to the meeting, and it was accepted unanimously, that henceforth the company will consult with the committee on those matters referred to in the guidelines and will provide a minimum of 10 working days for straightforward matters and "longer" for complex matters: the more complex, the longer the consultation period.
Towards the end of the meeting the very important matter of the mine's four groundwater extraction licences, totalling 399 mega litres per year, was raised by Kathleen Waddell, an alternate member of the CCC. She made particular reference to the modelling upon which those allowances have been based, and the need for the impact of climate variability to be factored into such modelling, and in fact any modelling concerning water availability and use by the mine. Because of the enormity of this subject matter, it was easily agreed that it would be taken up in the first meeting of the new year and very likely have at least one meeting devoted to it. I have suggested that we have an independent expert (possibly from CSIRO) give the CCC a presentation on the subject. As we all agree, the matter of water availability and quality - and the risks that it is subjected to - is of paramount importance.
As a footnote to the groundwater matter, Penny Hayman, secretary of the Upper Deua Catchment Landcare Group, advised Kathleen Waddell in late November that "most water licence holders" in that area have received notices to cease pumping. The mine has not received any such notice. That may be because the mine has thus far extracted less than 1 mega litre. This matter will be addressed at the first opportunity in the new year.
And, finally in this summary, the newly arrived Mine Manager, Shannon Green, now a resident of Braidwood, presented himself to the committee.