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20/01 - Govt pans gold mine's green credentials

Three NSW Government agencies have criticised the environmental assessment for a $240 million gold mine at Majors Creek near Braidwood, saying it is ''inadequate'', ignores climate change and contains ''little or nothing'' on managing toxic spills.

But Perth-based company Cortona Resources remains confident its plans to establish ''Australia's next major new gold mine'' will go ahead, and recently told prospective investors the mining lease ''is expected to be approved in line with the approval of the environmental assessment''.

The NSW Office of Water has told the state's Planning Department it cannot support the Majors Creek proposal ''due to inadequate information'' on the mine's impacts on groundwater, run-off and flow levels in local creeks and streams.

The NSW Environment Department has raised concerns about noise, salinity, management of toxic chemicals, risks to local water quality and impact of ''noise, light and vibration'' on native wildlife in a nearby conservation area. It has also criticised the environmental assessment's biodiversity strategy as ''vague'' and lacking detail, and said the document did not discuss how the company ''will deal with the inevitable spills [and] leaks ... that will occur in the area or areas where the ore will be processed''.

A third agency, the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, said the document failed to address the impacts of climate change.

The proposal for the Dargues Reef gold mine at Majors Creek is currently being assessed for approval by NSW Planning. It has also been referred to the federal Environment Department for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The NSW Planning Department has received more than 1000 public submissions relating to the mine, the majority objecting to the proposal.

One of Australia's most popular science fiction writers and children's authors, Isobelle Carmody, has filed an objection, describing the mine as ''environmental cannibalism''.

Local author Jackie French, who lives 5km downstream from the proposed development, has also filed an objection, raising concerns about leakage of chemical and alkaline water from the tailings dam.

For more on this story, including details of the NSW Office of Water's submission, see the print edition of today's Canberra Times.

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