AN INDEPENDENT panel has begun deliberating over the proposed Big Hill open-cut mine near Stawell, after two weeks of public hearings and a visit to the site.
The proposal from Canadian mining company Crocodile Gold Corp, which took control of the Stawell Gold Mine last year, would see two pits cut into the Big Hill area close to Stawell’s town centre, if approved by Planning Minister Matthew Guy after he considers the four-person panel’s findings, to be delivered in late August.
Northern Grampians Shire supports the proposal, with Mayor Kevin Erwin saying it would help sustain the town’s economy, which has suffered from the winding down of the Stawell Gold Mine.
“This would add some job opportunities in the town, and we need to find some employment alternatives,” he said.
Cr Erwin said the council had taken Crocodile Gold Corp “at face value” on its promises to rehabilitate the area once the gold ran out, estimated to be about five years from the start date.
Sherrie Hunt, spokeswoman for community opposition to the mine, said the approval would be disastrous for residents, some of whom would be 50 metres from the edge of one of the pits.
“We’re worried about the noise, particulate matter 2.5 and 5 (toxic compounds, heavy metals), which are carcinogenic, as well as the arsenic coming from the mine,” she said.
Ms Hunt was confident in the panel process, which she said recognised the imbalance between the community group and Crocodile Gold.
Ms Hunt’s property is fewer than 100 metres from the proposed edge of the mine.
In a statement to media, Stawell Gold Mine general manager Troy Cole said the plan would help Stawell.
“We want to work with the community to grow the area, and, as a company, believe the Big Hill project will be of huge benefit both over the five-year mining stage and well into the future due to the rehabilitation of Big Hill,” he said.
The Stawell Gold Mine is staying open on a quarter-by-quarter basis, employing 150 people, down from 380 in 2012.