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23/04 - EPA called in to investigate another spill

The box cut construction looking back towards Majors Creek.

After approximately 30 mm of rain falling over a ten hour period on Friday night there was another pollution plume into Spring Creek from the Dargues Gold Mine at Majors Creek. This was only days after the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had given the all clear after a previous sediment spill in February. On Thursday the Board of Unity Mining and the Dargues Reef Community Consultative Committee met on site and toured the new works, with emphasis on the sediment control works in place.

On Saturday morning first a darkish silt and then claylike sediment were evident downstream according to residents. While many residents notified the EPA during the day, Unity only notified the residents by email by 3pm.

In their email to Downstream Water Users, Unity said “An inspection of the site this morning showed that all sediment and erosion control structures performed as designed and the majority of sediment laden water has been contained on site. Regrettably, a sediment control structure that was put in place at one of the access road culverts closer to the main road was compromised and this has resulted in small volume of sediment being released into Spring Creek.

SEEC, the independent consultants appointed to monitor activities were on site on Friday and had inspected these areas.

The quantity of sediment released, is thought to be relatively minor with some discoloration of Spring Creek occurring. It is not expected that there will be any impact to water quality beyond the project's boundary.

Later on Radio a Unity spokesman said that extensive Council road works in the area may have caused the runoff, however Palerang Council has confirmed it did not have any work going on in the vicinity.”

Local resident Jackie French said 'Unity have refused our repeated requests to sample the polluted pools on our property on Saturday, Sunday and again on Monday. Instead, they sampled further down the valley, despite being told that the sediment appear to be heavy, and did not persist more than 4.5 km from the site. By Sunday morning the pollution was evident only in the deep pools. It is still there, as a dark murk if the water is stirred up.”

“Unity appear to be testing the places where they have been told there is no pollution, but refusing to test the areas where the pollution was deposited” she said. “Unity now say that Dargues was never intended to be a 'zero impact' mine. This was exactly what they did claim in the approval process when they said there would be no impact on endangered species or households downstream.'

“When they make a mess they should inspect it. Then they should clean it up” said Jackie.

Gary Whytcross, EPA Director Southern Region, said that the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is aware of the discharge from Unity Mine entering Majors Creek over the weekend and inspected the site yesterday and again today (Monday). The EPA has asked Unity Mine for a full report on the incident. The mine reported the incident to the EPA’s Environment Line on Saturday evening as per its environmental requirements, by which time the EPA had been alerted to the incident by the community” he said. “The Unity Mine was the subject of an EPA clean up notice in February this year.  Since being issued with the notice the Unity Mine has made significant improvements to the Mine’s operations to ensure that discharges off site are mitigated.”

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