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16/03 - War over water: Araluen opposes mine


In the beautiful Araluen Valley, south-east of Braidwood, peach producer Wisbey's orchards is fighting for water security.

Orchardist Robyn Clubb, whose property is 8km downstream of ''Australia's next major gold mine'', is confident the NSW Government will order an independent assessment of the proposed mine.

She has 22,000 trees and relies on an aquifer to grow fruit for Sydney, Queensland and export markets.

The district's farmers, who also produce cattle, fat lambs, lucerne and silage, are opposing Cortona Resources, which wants to restart mining at nearby Majors Creek.

Cortona's application is with NSW Planning and will not be assessed until after the NSW election on March 26.

Mrs Clubb bought the district's biggest orchard from the Wisbey family six years ago and turns over $1million a year, employing up to 50 people in peak times.

She said the water table had refilled to where it should be, producing the best season she's had since buying the 480ha property.

She said Araluen landholders had only six weeks to respond to Cortona's development application, which was supported by technical information which they believed did not cover key issues.

Cortona's managing director, Peter van der Borgh, said 74 submissions were received from private individuals, specialists and interest groups for and against the proposal, which suggested there was appropriate time available. Many submissions also came from a single source.

Mrs Clubb said it was inconceivable of the miner to say no leaking would come from the tailings dam.

''I find it illogical. Majors Creek flows through my farm and joins with Araluen Creek which also flows through my farm.

''It's inconceivable that they are accessing water from Majors Creek, how can that not have an impact? They say 85per cent of the water will be recycled. What goes back into the creek?

''[The dispute] is more about the lack of work that's been done, beyond about a 2km radius of the mine,'' Mrs Clubb said.

Landholders wanted to choose an expert consultant who had not been paid by Cortona.

Mr van der Borgh said this was unwarranted. ''The groundwater modelling was peer reviewed by industry leaders and the NSW Office of Water has indicated to the Department of Planning it supports the groundwater and surface water assessments.''

The mine was designed to be self-contained, with no interaction with local water supplies.

He said the tailings storage dam wall would be designed, constructed and monitored to NSW Dams Safety Committee specifications, with safeguards to prevent rainfall run-off from entering it and causing it to overflow. The tailings storage facility will be created with an impermeable liner.

''Cortona will not be accessing water from Majors Creek. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Cortona will be maintaining flows in Majors Creek by the controlled release of clean water collected and stored in dams that will have no opportunity to interact with process water.''

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