NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council expects extended gold mining activity at Stawell to boost the region’s economy and help the proposed Big Hill open-cut project move forward.
Mining company Stawell Gold Mines has announced plans to continue its underground gold mining activity into next year.
The company had forecast gold supplies in its existing mine would dry up this year.
General manager Troy Cole said the company was closing underground operations at the mine and had completed mining gold reserves as scheduled earlier this year.
“As we are working back up through the mine and going over our footprint of the past few years, we are finding more supplies,” he said.
“Basically, anything we find now will extend our underground activity because we need to close it out responsibly.”
Mr Cole said there were not a lot of new discoveries.
“It is more about packing up the mine, but with the amount of gold we have found, the work will take us into the first quarter of 2014,” he said.
Mr Cole said the extension meant the company’s employees would keep working.
“We have exercised redundancies since the middle of this year,” he said.
“We had 380 employees and we went down to 150 employees.
“It is our intention to stabilise that number into next year.”
Northern Grampians chief executive Justine Linley said the extended mining activity was a really good piece of news.
She said Stawell would benefit from keeping workers in the region.
“Anything that keeps skilled people in town is a good thing,” she said.
“Keeping the staff will help with people’s confidence in Stawell Gold Mines and encourage people to be more supportive of mining in the region.”
Mrs Linley said the mining activity would benefit the town’s fly-in-fly-out concept.
“We always considered that the fly-in-fly-out idea was a long-term vision that would take some time to develop,” she said.
“But it is completely linked in and essential for ongoing training in mining and emergency management and rescues based in Stawell.
“We are also looking at tying it in with other infrastructure so it will have a long-term economic benefit.”
Stawell Gold Mines is developing an environmental effects statement for its proposed Big Hill open-cut mine.
Mrs Linley said Stawell Gold Mines would now have more time to do the required Big Hill study.
“Consultancies and investigators will now also be able to draw upon Stawell people who have that knowledge about the mine in town,” she said.
“In essence the environmental effects statement is a seven-step process and they are between steps three and four at the moment.”
Mr Cole said the continued mining activity underground would benefit the Big Hill proposal.
“Any more underground work we do will give cause for the continuation of operations,” he said.
“Every little bit helps.”