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10/02 - Gold mine deal 'win for all'

Opponents of a proposed gold mine near Braidwood in southern New South Wales have struck a deal to boost the environmental safeguards for the project.

Cortona Resources received state and federal approval for the Majors Creek mine late last year.

But conservation groups and the neighbouring Eurobodalla Shire Council launched legal action in the NSW Land and Environment Court over concerns about the project's environmental impacts.

Last December the Eurobodalla Shire Council struck an agreement with Cortona Resources after the company made a number of concessions including improving the design of the tailings dam.

Now the Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of the conservation groups, has successfully secured extra environmental safeguards.

Principle solicitor Kirsty Ruddock says the agreement has addressed the key areas of concern.

"The groups were very concerned about whether the mining was going to be done in accordance with best environmental practices and whether it was going to have an environmental impact particularly on the downstream water quality and also in relation to environmental issues in the region," she said.

Ms Ruddock says the company will also be making its environmental impact studies more transparent.

"There's going to be a larger number where water is going to be tested, and there's going to be a lot more information that's going to be made public," she said.

Author Jackie French lives in the Araluen Valley a few kilometres downstream from the proposed mine site.

She has been campaigning for stricter environmental conditions and describes the agreement as a win for all.

"We are absolutely overjoyed, this makes the most extraordinary difference," she said.

"The tailings dam is now going to be the safest possible, the water model is being redone, far more monitoring, far more sorts of different monitoring.

"Forty-six more safeguards that we'd asked for and the court too added another three safeguards"

Cortona Resources Managing Director Peter van der Borgh says he is pleased the uncertainty is over.

"From a community perspective it's a great outcome, the safeguards are in place," he said.

"From a company perspective it's a good outcome, the productivity levels are unchanged and for the community it's a great outcome because the employment, and training opportunities remain there as well."

Mr van der Borgh says they hope to begin the construction process this year.

"We're delighted to have reached the end of the process which has taken 26 months to get there," he said.

"We're looking forward now to going on and building a mine and delivering some opportunity to the district."

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