The East Gippsland Community Action Group Inc. has a number of concerns on the benefits to the region and the long-term viability and impact to existing food production and animal farming.
In addition, while we have been informed the mineral sands deposits at the Fingerboards are the richest in the world, we have not been advised of alternative site/s that could be mined. In any economic cost-benefit-analysis all options are considered and the proposal that has the least impact on society is chosen.
These are our main points:
- Water Consumption
Water is a scarce resource with farmers seeking greater allowances. The proponent advises that it will require 3 to 4 gigalitres of water annually for its operations. It is understood East Gippsland consumes 3.75 gigalitres of water by 29,000 households and 3,500 commercial properties. First, is the proponents estimate of water usage accurate or understated? second, how would this significant water consumption not affect the regions demand, continuity and security of its water supply and, third, what happens to priorities of water consumption in drought or other adverse conditions.
- Mitchell River & Perry River
Risk to the Mitchell River and Perry River, including contaminants entering these rivers and flow on effect to the greater lakes system. The mine is to be located precariously close to the Mitchell River approximately 400 metres in distance.
- Degradation to the environment
The current area to be mined is 1,400 hectares with four additional exploration licences sought EL006381, EL006578, EL006579 and EL006580 totalling an additional 190 square kilometres. Within the area there is 242 hectares of native vegetation, with approximately 400 mature trees, some being the oldest trees in the area. The removal of thousands of mature native trees, vegetation and the loss of associated fauna will have an enormous impact.
- Risk to our Clean Green reputation
This particular region of East Gippsland is known for its clean, green and organic farming, it is a significant food bowl in Australia and has growing international trade markets. The licence areas are located amongst these food producing farms. Heavy Mineral Sands Mining is not a compatible land use with clean green organic farming.
Any contamination to produce from this area would affect production, sales and tarnish the reputation of East Gippsland, similarly Victoria in all markets, this would have a severe economic consequence.
Glenaladale is known for its sodic/dispersive soils and is regarded the cause of silt on the silt jetties and turbidity of the Mitchel River. The Mitchell River is the source of the water supply for the City of Bairnsdale and environs.
- Heavy metals & radioactive materials
An experienced heavy metals expert has pointed out that at least four carcinogens which are currently in soils will be exposed as the ore body is excavated. These carcinogens have a tendency to become airborne, contaminate soils and bio accumulate. Import countries have strict testing regimes for these contaminants in vegetable and meat produce and any contaminants would affect our exports markets.
- Loss of amenity
There will be a high impact on the immediate community, including: noise from continuous mining, pollution, heavy transport using the road networks, visual, etc.
Dust is of serious concern including: the prevention of dust settling on rivers, water storages, crops, grazing land, buildings, solar panels, etc. Grazing animals are at particular risk as they inhale air from ground level while feeding.
Kalbar Resources are to use open cut mining methods to extract on average of 7 million tons of ore per year. This equates to 800 tons per hour, with the mine being operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The mined ore will be sent to the mining unit plant within the complex for slurrying and pumping to a wet concentrator to produce heavy mineral concentrate which will then be processed on site to produce heavy mineral concentrate to export for further processing into Zircon and Rutile products.
Rehabilitation of land is always an issue. The Australian Institute in its paper Dark Side of the Boom (Victoria) July 2017 produces some alarming figures on the mining industry’s track record on rehabilitation. The Institute states Victoria has up to 150 operating mines and 122 in care and maintenance, but only one (1) mine has been fully rehabilitated (albeit this only mine has not been confirmed). Bonds held for rehabilitation of all mines is $160M with estimates to complete of $938M. The Institute obtained all statistics from government departments.
Land to be resumed for mining purposes instead of farming and has a negative impact on employment in both the short term and long term.
Licences for extracting heavy mineral sands for export over a short term versus the growing demand and strategic importance of feeding an increasing national and international population. The economic benefit to the region and Victoria is difficult and possibly impossible to quantify. The net welfare loss would be significant.
The above areas will eventually be an open cut mine.