Fresh moves to mine Stawell's Big Hill

STAWELL Gold Mine has launched fresh moves to mine Stawell landmark Big Hill.

It has lodged an Environmental Effects Statement referral with the State Government to find out what would be required to start mining at Big Hill.

It comes almost 13 years after the State Government rejected the mine's Big Hill Development Project, amid intense community divide that lasted more than two years.

Mine general manager Troy Cole said the mine was considering the project because current mining operations would finish within a year.

He said the project would be much more environmentally friendly than originally proposed and would employ between 80 and 100 people over four or five years.

"We need to refer it to the Minister for Planning Matthew Guy who will then decide whether an Environmental Effects Statement would be required and what the process would be," he said.

"Gold pricing is stronger than when the previous project was considered so that would make it easier for a stronger rehabilitation of the area.

"The project was originally going to leave a void but now the area will be restored back to its original landform and the project is environmentally more considerate.

"It is those sorts of things that enable the project to be reconsidered."

Mr Cole said the project would not affect Northern Grampians Shire Council's bid for a fly-in fly-out service in Stawell.

He said the community would be involved in the project, starting with a public Environmental Review Committee meeting on February 5.

"What happened 10 years ago got very emotive and that is not the intent of the current consideration," he said.

"It is a carefully considered project and we are very appreciative of the need for community consultation."

Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Wayne Rice said he would support the project if the mine could prove it would benefit the Stawell community.

He encouraged the shire's residents to delay their judgment until after the mine's first community consultation meeting.

"If the community finishes up better than what it is today then I would support it," he said.

"It would buy us some time, which is important with the current mine closing.

"If we can get another three or four years out of it, it would be good but during those years the community needs to pull together, not split apart.

"The message I want to get across to people is that if this is to go ahead we need to get behind it as a community because we need to diversify and get more businesses in Stawell."

Graeme Dunstan, whose mother grew up in Stawell, campaigned heavily against the project in 1998 by organising a Big Hill Light Up, which saw about 500 people light lanterns in opposition to the mine.

He said he would consider organising another protest to ensure the new proposal did not go ahead.