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16/07 - Mine works to stop spills into streams

Earthworks at the entrance of the box cut mine near Majors Creek.

Earthworks at the entrance of the box cut mine near Majors Creek.

Unity Mining says its box cut mine near Majors Creek is now deep enough to hold excess water from sediment ponds, to avoid spills of dirty water into nearby creeks.

Since February heavy rain has hampered the start of construction on the underground mine, and dirty discharges into Majors Creek have sparked complaints downstream.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority's investigations are continuing.

Excavators have dug out a v-shaped entrance to the box cut mine and two blasts have taken place, including one that shifted 33,000 tonnes of rock.

A spokesman for Unity Mining said over the life of the mine the box cut excavation would act like a sump taking excess water. More drilling and blasting would take place in coming weeks.

Meanwhile Hilton Bourke, a retired cattle farmer and former fruit and vegetable grower who lives downstream at Araluen, said Unity Mining was a good corporate citizen, providing jobs for people across the district.

Mr Bourke said recent reporting of dirty discharges was not balanced and could be premature because EPA investigations were ongoing.

''Those who have complained the loudest about sediment control are the same people who campaigned vigorously against the mine, causing a delay of many months,'' Mr Bourke said. ''Each time it rains, creeks get discoloured all the time.''

He said feeder creeks including Majors, Bell's, Sheep Station, Dirty Butter, Apple and Deep Creeks flowed into Araluen Creek, which flowed into the Deua River.

Mr Bourke, 78, said his cousin's son worked for the mine. But he was speaking on his own behalf.

He said most fair-minded Araluen residents believed Unity Mining and its predecessor, Cortona Resources, had done a reasonable job in the face of extreme weather, when over 150 millimetres of rain fell within 18 hours, to avoid erosion.

''I've had a creek running at our place, the old gold mining place they called Burketown. It hadn't run for about 40 years, and it is still running now.''

Araluen Progress Association president Jamie Reynolds said the mine had divided the community.

Mr Reynolds said four valleys ran parallel with Araluen, and those closest to Majors Creek who fattened cattle or grew fruit were most opposed to the mine.

Although he lived in the Neringla valley he believed the mine was a threat. ''I'd be worried if I lived in the valley. This pollution is coming from the new road they are building. It's sediment. I don't think there are any chemicals in it.''

In a company newsletter Unity managing director Andrew McIllwain said heavy rain in late June had delayed work on the main access road, which should be finished in August. ''Also, to mitigate runoff from site much of the water from site
sediment ponds was pumped into the box cut to prevent excavation of the recently blasted rock,'' Mr McIllwain said.

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