Ballarat prospectors could soon be striking it rich in the region’s parks as part of an upcoming review – a move which has enraged environmentalists.
A spokesperson for Resources Minister Michael O’Brien told The Courier the government supported prospectors having access to parks “where appropriate”.
“Prospecting is not only a significant part of Victoria’s history, but it should be a significant part of our future as well,” the spokesperson said.
“Prospectors already have access to large sections of many of Victoria’s parks (under section 32D of the National Parks Act) including St Arnaud Range National Park, Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, Greater Bendigo National Park, and Heathcote-Grayton National Park.”
Ballarat prospectors say they were promised a review into restricted areas before the Victorian election of 2010.
Yesterday, the government confirmed a review would soon take place, potentially opening up vast lands to gold diggers across the state.
“The government will soon be commencing a review to ascertain under what circumstances it is appropriate that greater access be provided while still protecting the heritage and environmental values of our national parks,” the spokesperson said.
Ballarat branch member of the Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria, Max Muir, applauded the government’s move.
But Mr Muir said the goal of the PMAV was never to have complete access to parks.
“We have never ever demanded total access,” he said.
“We’ve got no problem staying away from aboriginal burial sites, historic sites or any areas of ecological value.”
Victorian National Parks Association spokesman Philip Ingamells said prospectors were likely to dig up areas “wherever their metal detector registers scrap metal.”
“ This can affect many threatened plant species, including rare ground orchids,” he said.
“Activities that are likely to have impacts on these important natural values should not be allowed.”