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26/06 - Creek sediment stirs up residents


Penny Hayman by the edge of the swollen and polluted Majors Creek. Photo: Jay Cronan

Residents near the goldmine near Braidwood are nervous after another rush of pollution down their local creek following recent rain.

The Environment Protection Authority continues to investigate the incident, after the usually clear Majors Creek was turned opaque by the fourth discharge of sediment connected to the Dargues Reef mine since February.

Araluen retiree Penny Hayman said despite better communication, the mine's owner - Unity Mining - was not doing enough to prevent the repeated pollution.


Majors Creek after rainfall on June 24. Photo: Alex Rea


''It's a bit of a shame, and it makes you nervous,'' Ms Hayman said.

''Looking from the outside, the company and its employees are now running a line that this is OK.''

EPA NSW south-east region manager Nigel Sargent said the discharge - which continued to discolour the creek on Tuesday afternoon, a day after it began - would not have long-term environmental consequences.

''There are a number of sediment and erosion controls on the site. They have retained most of the coarse material, and what we're seeing is colloidal material - superfine, electrically charged particles - which isn't able to be filtered,'' Mr Sargent said.

''We'd expect to see the very fine colloidal material to be discharged, [and] we'd expect that material to move through the river system very quickly. I wouldn't expect to see significant damage.''

Mr Sargent said the majority of sediment appeared to be from the construction site for an access road, not the mine itself, which is many months away from production.

Long-time Araluen resident and author Jackie French said the creek metres from her home was crystal clear at 9.15am on Monday, but turned a ''dark yellow-orange'' after the sediment arrived at 10.30am.

In an email at 11am, Unity Mining suggested that registered downstream water users ''refrain from using the water at this time'' if it appeared cloudy or there were other quality concerns.

Ms French said her concern was any discharge after goldmining began would not have the same temporary consequences.

Mr Sargent said the mine's planning consent had a different system for controlling the mine waste and metallic materials.

''They would provide a risk if they were released, [but] there will be more stringent controls in place.''

He said the EPA was monitoring the situation closely, and had required the company to make continuing improvements since February.

''We are investigating the cause of each of the incidents, and we will make a decision as to what the appropriate response is when investigation is complete,'' Mr Sargent said.

''We have a year to make a decision about what formal action is taken.''

There was no response from Unity Mining on Tuesday.

In an email to Ms French after the earlier three discharges, Dargues Gold Mine said the mine was not required to have a zero discharge of water from the site, and that the flows were ''designed discharges as per the sediment and erosion control plan''.






The 'pollution' in the above photograph appears no different to the 'pollution'  of excess water flowing down Araluen St in Majors Creek during the recent rain period which of course enters the stream.This is also no different to any other downpours we have experienced over the years I have witnessed.            Marshall McCarron.

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