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26/12 - Majors Creek man brings his no-cyanide message to Canberra

 Jay Cronan

Jeff Wolford, of Araluen, is protesting about the goldmine using cyanide. Photo: Jay Cronan

A Majors Creek man has travelled to Canberra towing a handmade sign protesting the potential use of cyanide at a goldmine south of Braidwood.

Jeff Wolford said he was outraged when Unity Mining announced plans to build a cyanide processing plant at the Majors Creek goldmine, despite initially intending to send materials for processing about380km to the north.

The home-made sign is in stark contrast to the public messaging campaign employed by Unity Mining, which spent about $10,000 to fly residents and council workers to view its Henty goldmine in Tasmania.  

Mr Wolford, who lives about three kilometres from the proposed site, said his wish for his small town and the Araluen Valley was for the mine to abandon plans to use cyanide.

"The indications are they would make it as safe as possible but you only need one disaster and something to influence and I wouldn't want that to happen to anyone."

Mr Wolford said residents in Eurobodalla Shire and Araluen Valley were concerned about the mine's use of cyanide, fearing that it may damage the water catchment for 140,000 people in summer.

But Unity Mining managing director Andrew McIlwain said cyanide could be used safely in goldmining operations and was already being used in its Tasmanian mine.

"All of the water containing cyanide will be treated through a process that destroys the cyanide such that the levels are reduced well below safe operating levels before it is transferred from the processing plant to the tailings storage facility," he said.

In February 2013, Mr McIlwain told an audience at a public meeting there would be "certainly no cyanide" used at the mine after listening to community feedback.

Local concerns about the use of cyanide have been exacerbated by the mine's previous operations, which led to the Spring and Majors creeks being polluted within months of construction beginning.

The Land and Environment Court ordered Unity to pay $196,000 in penalties and costs, including to the Upper Deua Catchment Landcare Group.

Araluen Valley Protection and Producers Coalition president Penny Hayman said within two weeks of mine construction, Unity had polluted Spring and Majors creeks.

Mr McIlwain has admitted the pollution of the region during construction was not the company's finest hour, but insisted cyanide could be safely used at the NSW mine.

"We have taken our 40 lashes and paid our fines. It is not something we are very proud of, but circumstances were quite different," he said.

"There will be no mercury, lead or lead dust emissions associated with the smelting of gold ore at Dargues."

"The current project approvals do not permit the transport or processing of ore from other sites and that the proposed modification makes no change to this condition."

Mr McIlwain said community information sessions had been held in Braidwood, Araluen and Moruya, and provided an opportunity "for people to better understand and correct misinformation".

But the proposed changes have outraged some local councillors like Pail Cockram, who described the cyanide plans as "terrifying" for residents.

"I mean, they came here and stood in front of this community and said they were going to build a mine but 'don't worry we're not going to do any of the really nasty processing part – we're going to send that somewhere else to get it done'," he said.

Unity Mining is expected to submit an environmental impact statement to the NSW government early next year. 

http://www.smh.com.au/act-news/majors-creek-man-brings-his-nocyanide-mes...

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