Stawell Big Hill mine proposal to be reviewed by panel

A panel of inquiry will hand a report to Planning Minister Matthew Guy in August.

A panel of inquiry will hand a report to Planning Minister Matthew Guy in August.

AN INQUIRY panel has been appointed to consider Stawell Gold Mines’ proposal to mine open cut pits at Big Hill.

An initial directions hearing will start Monday.

Minister for Planning Matthew Guy has appointed the panel to look at the Environmental Effects Statement and community submissions regarding the mine.

Planning Panels Victoria senior panel member Jennifer Moles will chair the four-person panel.

The panel hearing will start on June 30 and is expected to last for nine to 10 days.

The news comes as some residents continue to oppose the development.

Stawell resident Sherrie Hunt is lobbying against the mine, which she believes will force her to move due to the proximity of the pits to her property. 

Mrs Hunt and her husband Brad moved to Stawell from Newcastle in August 2012.

“My husband and I will move if it goes ahead,” she said.

“We got ourselves into a position to live here to look after Brad’s mum and dad, but there’s no way we could live here once the mine starts.

“This is our utopia that we thought we’d be retiring to.” 

Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Justine Linley said after reading about 330 of the 350 public submissions, she estimated two-thirds were in favour of the development.

“Of those who are supportive there are some who just want some assurance that some of the measures outlined by the mine in the EES will be undertaken,”she said. 

“That’s pretty much what council has asked for as well.”

“This is our utopia that we thought we’d be retiring to.” - Stawell resident Sherrie Hunt, who opposes the Big Hill development

Mrs Linley said there was still a long way to go before the project would be granted approval.

Northern Grampians Mayor Kevin Erwin said council’s submission had sought assurances that residents would not be worse off if the project went ahead.

“Part of our submission was that the mine needs to adhere to the air quality parts and noise pollution parts of the EES,” he said.

“The other main point of our submission is to ensure there’s sufficient bond to restore the hill after the mine has finished.”

Mrs Hunt said she believed residents’ success in opposing a similar development more than a decade ago had led to apathy.

“A lot of people said they won last time so they don’t expect it will happen,” she said.

“But some people just don’t have enough knowledge about what health concerns could be.” 

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said the proposal was unacceptable.

“It was knocked back once before and the environmental risks of running a giant open cut won’t be able to be fixed,” he said.

He said issues caused by dust, noise and vibration could be damaging to the quality of life of surrounding residents.

“This is literally happening along people’s back fences,” Mr Barber said.

“The government says you should be able to veto a wind farm development which is within two kilometres – let’s see them apply that principle here.”

Liberal candidate for Ripon Louise Staley said she was watching the process with interest.

“I have met with the mine operators and I’m very keen to see that the community gets to participate and have its voice heard in the debate,” she said. 

“I dont think it’s appropriate for me to pre-judge the process.”

Friends of Big Hill will have a ‘sunset celebration’ on the hill to share their feelings about its future on Sunday.

A report from the panel will be provided to Mr Guy by the end of August.

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