Most members were under the impression that all approvals for the Dargues Reef Mine were finalised, and that mining was set to commence, as the Miner was saying.
However, that was not correct and the Association has been monitoring the Commonwealth website for this decision. It was made last Friday 17 February 2017. This approval was made by the Commonwealth Government’s powers covering threatened species listed in the Commonwealth EPBC Act (The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).
This is a fascinating decision for two reasons. First it is a conditional approval, and second, for the first time in 16 years with this project, an approval agency has taken into account DOWNSTREAM impacts. This is a monumental change and is to be wholeheartedly welcomed. Up until now the NSW and Commonwealth Governments have been only interested in an a few kilometres around the mine site.
The Association has been arguing that the major problems that beset mines the world over, are when tailings dams leak or burst and the water, sediment and chemicals burst into the environment. Remember just 16 months ago BHPs tailings dam in Brazil burst killing 17 people and smothering entire villages. The sludge travelled 650 km to the Atlantic Ocean killing everything in its path. The list goes on and on, with 1 -2 major failures every year somewhere in the world. At last the light bulb was switched on for the Commonwealth Government. Maybe there is insufficient power in NSW to light another bulb.
Dargues Reef Gold Mine Commonwealth Approval (995KB PDF)
No mining can commence until the conditions of this approval are met and the Minister has signed off his approval. The Conditions are that the Miner must prepare:
1. A Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) to protect downstream listed threatened species and communities, and
2. A Water Management Plan (WMP) be prepared to protect downstream listed threatened species and communities.
In its August 2016 submission regarding Commonwealth approvals relating to the EPBC Act the, Coastwatchers Association recommended:
The Coastwatchers Association Inc recommends to the Australian Government that the project NOT be approved under the Environmental Protection and Conservation Act 1999, given the potential catastrophic impacts of the Dargues Reef Gold Mine on the Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable flora and fauna downstream from the mine. Spillages and Tailings Dam failures are a worldwide characteristic of mining, especially mining at the top of a 700 meter escarpment whose river system runs through the Deua National Park, and is the source of the Eurobodalla Shire’s water supply. For once Government appears to have listened. The Association will be considering options in the near future.