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24/8 - Wildlife fears for Majors Creek mine

24 Aug, 2011 04:00 AM

The commission assessing the proposed Dargues Reef gold mine at Majors Creek considered owl calls, tadpoles, frogs and little fish yesterday.

More than 40 presentations from traditional land owners, shire councils, miners, farmers and residents were made before the Planning Assessment Commission in Braidwood.

Perth gold company Cortona Resources expects Dargues Reef deposit at Majors Creek, if approved, to produce 50,000 ounces of gold over an initial mine life of six years, but an independent environmental report and residents say there is a high risk of mining poisoning water catchments.

Bryan Sullivan, who lives 5km downstream with his wife and prominent author Jackie French, told yesterday's hearing that since recent heavy rains they had not heard the powerful deep calls of owls at night.

Nor had they noticed tadpoles, frogs and little fish in Majors Creek proper, even though they were plentiful in subsidiary creeks.

''Something has probably happened in the upper catchment area of the creek,'' he said.

''That disturbs us. I have no other data other than my observations.

''This has happened before mining has commenced.

''If mining commences, what else is going to happen?

''It could be much worse.''

Araluen Valley Agricultural Producers and Protectors of the Eco System Coalition spokeswoman Robyn Clubb said her group's submission included evidence from Mogo Land Council member and Aboriginal elder Tom Butler.

Mr Butler lived near the lower end of the Deua River, where perch and other fish and birds and trees were healthy.

''Why put it at risk with contaminating the water supply from up the top of the headwaters which is Majors Creek?''

River catchment resident Anne Rault questioned Cortona's pledge to maximise jobs for Braidwood, Araluen and Majors Creek communities, after noting the company's memorandum of understanding with Perth mining specialist GBF Mining and Industrial Services to provide experienced people for underground gold mining.

''If they are bringing in experienced crews, there won't be jobs for local people.''

Barry Thomas, who lives near the proposed mine site and has been attempting to rehabilitate the land scarred in the late 1800s, said he was concerned about water quality in the area.

An observer of the hearing, Jane Salmon, said she was amazed at the intensity and high quality of the debate.

''I thought it would be all quilters,'' she said.

''They would be divided between those worried about nature and those worried about tourism and jobs, there seems to be a split there.''

Cortona's managing director Peter van der Borgh said his company had taken a consultative approach and was very mindful of the wishes of those impacted by the mining proposal.

''I am very proud of our community engagement to date and the feedback has been integrated into the design,'' Mr van der Borgh said.

''Our history would demonstrate a community-based approach, from our first community meeting three years ago and a large number of engagements since.''

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