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11/10 - Council bid to stop Braidwood mine

11 Oct, 2011 04:00 AM

Eurobodalla Shire Council has launched legal action to contest NSW planning and environmental approval for a $240million underground gold mine at Majors Creek, near Braidwood.

Araluen residents, including best-selling Diary of a Wombat author Jackie French, are also challenging federal environmental approval for the mine, demanding Environment Minister Tony Burke provide a detailed scientific explanation of why the approval was granted.

The group has questioned whether adequate wildlife surveys were conducted to support the decision.

Eurobodalla councillor Graham Scobie said they were concerned the mine would adversely affect the South Coast's $350million tourism industry by decreasing water supplies to local towns.

''While I can appreciate the economic benefits this mine may bring to the people of Majors Creek, tourism is our major industry on the South Coast, and hundreds of jobs depend on having good water flows coming down the river, '' he said.

The council has lodged an objection to the NSW Government's approval for the mine - which is estimated to generate 80 full-time jobs - with the NSW Land and Environment Court.

The NSW Environmental Defenders Office has also lodged an objection with the court on behalf of two local community environment groups, Coastwatchers and the South-East Conservation Alliance.

West Australian gold exploration company Cortona Resources said it believed it could successfully defend the legal challenges.

Managing director Peter van der Borgh said, ''The company believes that the measures it has committed to and implemented as part of its environmental obligations should position it well to successfully defend the challenge.''

Until a judgment is made by the court, Cortona was entitled to rely on the NSW and federal approvals to carry out its operations at the Dargues Reef mine site, he said.

But NSW Environmental Defenders Office principal solicitor Kirsty Ruddock said an injunction to stop land clearing and other development works at the Majors Creek mine site could not be ruled out.

''That is certainly one course of action that is open to us, if the development works are extensive,'' she said.

Mr Scobie said Eurobodalla Shire Council voted last week to take legal action to contest the NSW Government's approval for the mine ''chiefly because of concerns about water''.

''As any Canberra visitors to the South Coast will know, we quite often have water restrictions.''

The council had recently invested $57million in new water infrastructure - a $33million pipeline and a $24million water treatment plant - and these would be affected by any reduction in river flows.

''We are also concerned that the tailings dam for the mine will be built within our water catchment,'' Mr Scobie said.

Conditions imposed by the NSW Government approval require Cortona to develop detailed environmental management plans before mining begins. They include plans to reduce greenhouse emissions, manage water use and protect Aboriginal heritage.

Cortona must also prepare a comprehensive biodiversity management plan, and fund 272ha of biodiversity offsets to compensate for loss of threatened species.

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