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19/11 - LETTER: Protecting our environment (Yass tribune)

Dear Editor,

Beloved and fragile Major's Creek between Goulburn and the South Coast has endured the impacts of logging, mining, hard hooves and more. Yet it still nurtures wildlife, forest, fresh water and a picturesque village. Some call it Shangri-La, a secret paradise. Jackie French wrote all her wombat books there. All that is at risk.

The messy Dargues Reef Project went to great lengths to market minerals projects to the area.

On the back of this work, Unity Mining seeks to build an ore smelter at Major’s creek, processing ore by cyanide leaching, and leaving the heavy metal residue, which includes lead, in tailings dams. The development would be large enough to process ore from other mines. The traffic load this entails is itself damaging to the environment, local roads and increases the existing danger for road users.

The community impacts of smelters are well known.

The previous approval was for a tailings dam with inert contents. The gold at Dargues is found in association with lead, as well as small amounts of other heavy metal contaminants, including uranium. Unity proposes they be processed here: directly above the catchment area for the Araluen Valley and Eurobodalla's water system. It only needs one spill to cause devastation.

Smelting residue contains lead dust which, when inhaled, affects human intelligence. Related lead and heavy metal pollution would persist for generations. Insurance companies have built their life and health insurance cost benefit calculations around lead dust levels for decades. Professor Stephen Leeder points to the health impacts on generations of residents and workers in Beijing, LA, Western Sydney, Lithgow.

Dargues committed five environmental breaches in the six months it operated. No environmental procedure assurances from a company intent on saving itself cost seems worth the paper it is written on. The Unity project is likely to be worse, not better.

Major's Creek relies on its natural heritage to thrive. It has tourism value that is being extinguished for a handful of short-term local jobs, for out of town company profits and state mining taxes. We need to value what we still have and our future, not just vandalistic fast-buck "enterprise".

Local wildlife, clean water, the health of children, the remaining integrity of our land is at risk. Just say "No!".

Jane Salmon

Killara, NSW

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