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21/11 - Radically increased threat to environment

As a frequent visitor to Palerang Shire and ratepayer in Eurobodalla Shire I was appalled to read the news that Unity Mining is now seeking approval for a processing plant involving the use of cyanide at its gold mine at Majors Creek. 

Approval was originally given for a mine where processing would be undertaken off site and 

where the contents of the on site tailings dam would have been inert. 

This new proposal totally reverses this situation and radically increases the threat to the local and down stream environments. Additionally, my understanding is that the present proposal is for a cyanide processing plant that would be large enough to enable processing of ore from other mines thereby increasing the processing dangers.

Another threat from on site processing comes from lead and small amounts of other heavy metal contaminants that may be found in association with the gold to be mined. Under the currently approved plan they would be taken away with the ore. However if the company’s current proposal is approved these would now remain on site, on a steep slope above the Araluen Valley and Eurobodalla catchments, thus presenting a significant pollution risk in dust, smoke or smelting residue. 

As reported in the media, Unity Mining's managing director Andrew McIlwain makes light of concerns about the use of cyanide at the mine “…as the potentially toxic substance could be used safely if handled correctly.” This cavalier approach comes despite the fact that in the short time in which the mine has been in operation, there have already been at least three episodes where waterways have been polluted.

According to reports, Andrew McIlwain admits the cyanide used in processing is potentially toxic.   Mining history both on the Majors Creek site and across the nation shows that it is totally impossible for anyone to guarantee that it would be “…handled and managed in the right scenario…” and consequently be “very safe.”

Noel Pratt

Kambah ACT


Following on from Noel Pratt's letter, I too am a frequent visitor of the "eco-tourist" kind to the Araluen and Deua River Valleys -- I love these places dearly -- and I too am appalled by the very suggestion of cyanide processing at Dargues Reef gold mine.

Apart from the breathtaking shamelessness and dishonesty of this company attempting to bring in cyanide processing, after years of repeated assurances that this would never occur -- and project approval based on these assurances -- the very scheme is madness.

The top of a steep escarpment? At the top of a river system with excellent water quality, a fantastic native fish fauna including a very important (probably NSW's best) population of threatened Australian grayling, and a pure source of water for many thousands of town folk and rural folk?  In an area very well recorded as having had many many sudden heavy 100-300 mm scale rainfall events since European settlement?

The risks are just too extraordinary, the consequences too catastrophic.  That a disaster will inevitably occur is oh-so-obvious ... as is the fact that those guilty of it will, as ever, quietly slink away and face no censure, consequences or punishment.

It is just utter utter madness.  In an even slightly sane, responsible world, cyanide processing of gold ore in such a place wouldn't even be dreamt of, contemplated or suggested.

The fact that it has been suggested -- by those with the desperate sniff of dollars in their nose -- is is profoundly disappointing.  Their assurances and platitudes should be rejected out of hand.  Their lofty talk of magically self-contained cyanide pods, tailing ponds that will magically never over-flow, and processing/tailings water that will magically never leave the site, should be rejected out of hand.  They should be fought and opposed without compromise.

This madness should not and simply cannot proceed.

Unity Mining and the NSW Government should be made to learn very clearly: NO CYANIDE PROCESSING IN THE DEUA VALLEY, EVER.

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