Noise, dust pollution concerns aired at Big Hill

MANY Stawell residents are concerned about the health, noise and environmental effects of Stawell Gold Mines' proposal to mine landmark Big Hill.

Hundreds of residents packed Stawell RSL on Saturday and Wednesday for information sessions on the Big Hill Enhanced Development Project.

The four to five-year project proposes two open cut pits about 60 metres below road level, which the mining company expects to produce 2.3 million tonnes of ore.

The project was originally rejected by the State Government in 2001 because of its social and environmental effects, Big Hill's heritage value, failure to refill one pit and doubts over whether the mine's underground operations could support the project.

Crudace Street resident David Long said he was concerned about the noise and dust caused by open cut mining.

"I would be more reassured if the mine could point to two or three cases in Australia where mines worked so close to residents, to mutual satisfaction,'' he said.

"It seems we are guinea pigs. This has not been done anywhere else."

Mr Long said he appreciated the mine hosting information sessions and having one-on-one consultation with residents closest to the proposed mine site.

"The mine has been very good and has wanted to talk to us," he said.

"It was good to have them come and speak with us one-on-one so that we could ask questions for half an hour or so."

Stawell Gold Mines general manager Troy Cole said the mine would only operate during daylight hours on weekdays.

He said many of the residents' questions on how to control noise and dust could not be answered until studies had been completed.

"I think everyone needs to keep in mind that there are health standards that have to be met," he said.

"Do I have all of the answers today? Absolutely not."

Mr Cole said strong gold prices would support the project's rehabilitation, which would see both pits filled and the hill returned to its original typography.

"These projects make a lot more money than what they used to make and good gold prices are guiding that," he said.

"In the event that the project is half-way through and we say we need to pull out, there is money put up front to ensure the rehabilitation work is done.

"They are the conditions set by governments right from the outset."

Mr Cole said submitting an environmental effects statement referral to the Planning Minister Matthew Guy last month was the first step in what would be a journey for the project.

"There has been some discussion that we are going to push this through," he said.

"That is not the case; the intention is to be open, honest and transparent right the way through.

"We do appreciate where we left off last time and it was not nice."

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