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19/11 - Opposition mounts to Cyanide use at Dargues

Since Unity Mining announced last week that it proposes to use Cyanide to process gold on site at the Dargues Gold Mine at Majors Creek, concern in the community has been mounting.

A Sodium Cyanide container left at Captains Flat Mine which closed in 1962. (Photo: Peter Marshall August 2014)

The public meeting in Majors Creek last Tuesday night was attended by about 40 people, however many commented that it would have been overflowing if the actual proposal had been known earlier. 

The main concerns brought up at the meeting took issue were the key agreements from the current approvals including the length of the project, processing and the use of cyanide. 

Many speakers voiced their lack of trust in the company after being promised repeatedly that no processing would be done on site; one resident calling it 'development by stealth.' This week film emerged on YouTube, taken by Paul Cockram in 2013, of CEO Andrew McIllwain assuring the community that cyanide processing would never be used at Majors Creek.

Further key concerns were voiced at the meeting about any further guarantees that once a processing facility was approved, that no ore from other sites would then be brought to the site for processing. 

Mr McIllwain was in Braidwood on Monday and "said that the tailings facility did not have the capacity to cope with more tailings than those forecast from the Dargues Mine."

However, Unity Mining promotional presentations trumpet "Excellent near mine & regional exploration upside" at Dargues, and while there are a multitude of exploration site across southern NSW, there are no processing plants approved elsewhere. 

Subsequently a new action group has formed to co-ordinate opposition to the proposal. 

Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison said "Many residents, especially those dependent on water downstream of the site, feel betrayed. After conceding that the mine would go ahead and that there'd be minimal on-site processing, to now hear that the operator is proposing to process all ore on-site has them quite upset. The simple fact is that, no matter how safe the processing might be, it comes with an element of risk—no processing, no associated risk. That there might be reduced truck movements to and from the site as a result is cold comfort to these people."

The company plans to get the modifications to the Environmental Assessment (EA), the principle planning document, submitted before Christmas which may leave the public consultation period to be over the holiday period when many people are distracted. 

Unity Mining says that it intends to hold public drop-in consultations in Braidwood and on the south coast. 

Correction: In last week’s Braidwood Times article “Mine Modification to include processing” it was incorrectly stated that Palerang Council would need to be part of the approvals process. In fact, as the mine development is ‘State Significant’ any modification will go through the NSW Department of Planning. 

By Alex Rea

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