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26/08 - Gold rush hits South East NSW

26 Aug, 2011 09:36 AM

A SLEW of mining operations are on the cusp of exploring tenements in South East NSW as gold fever hits the region.

Queanbeyan is at the centre of activity as companies prepare to dig at Braidwood, Bredbo, Gunning and Dalton.

One prospector has described the surge in activity as Australia’s third gold rush.

Cortona Resources, Waratah Resources, Commissioners Gold and Capital Mining are all planning to extract the precious yellow metal.

Capital Mining chief executive Robert McCauley said things were looking good for his operations.

‘‘Queanbeyan is quite central to this process,’’ Mr McCauley said. ‘‘I think a lot is going to happen in the next few years. Many of our tenements would be profitable at US$1000 an ounce.’’

Currently gold is tracking at about US$1900 an ounce. However Mr McCauley expects it to go a lot higher.

‘‘It wouldn’t surprise me in the next few years if it went to US$3500 or US$4000 – it could go as high as US$5000,’’ he said.

‘‘Obviously if you have gold where it is now, and the way I think it’s going, then [exploration] is very viable.

‘‘I’ve described it as Australia’s third gold rush.’’

He said he had spent 30 years in the industry but hadn’t seen conditions this favourable since the mid-1980s.

He said the equivalent price now for gold, if you took inflation into account, would be about US$2300 an ounce.

‘‘I have no problem locking things into gold. We knew it would go up and we’re pretty excited now.’’

The most advanced exploration underway is Cortona’s Dargues Reef Gold Project at Majors Creek, near Braidwood.

Despite fierce opposition from some residents about water contamination and environmental impacts, the NSW Department of Planning has finalised the company’s application and sent it to the Planning Assessment Commission for final determination.

The commission met with residents at Braidwood this week to hear public submissions before a decision on the project.

South East Region Conservation Alliance spokeswoman Jane Salmon said there were 40 presentations at the meeting.

‘‘The most consistent concern was the contamination of water,’’ Ms Salmon said. ‘‘The issue was the hydrology seemed to be wrong and the geological report [from the NSW Department of Planning] did not account for the permeability of the rock.’’

She said this meant leaching from the mine remained an issue that could lead to pollution of Majors Creek.

‘‘Flooding could poison the whole river system,’’ Ms Salmon said.

A Cortona spokesman said the company would like to get things started by the end of the year.

He said it had done everything it could and was now working to ensure environmental concerns were addressed.

If approved, the Dargues Reef Project would be expected to produce 50,000 ounces of gold over the initial mine life of six years.

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