Update on the Dargues Reef Mine November 2018

Background: Gold was discovered at Majors Creek in 1870. Mining commenced in 1871 and lasted until 1890. It recommenced during the First World War from 1914 until 1916.

Reopening the Dargues Gold Mine at Majors Creek was again proposed in 2009. Approval was granted in 2012, after an unsuccessful appeal to the Land and Environment Court by Coastwatchers and others. Initial site works were completed in late 2013, and the mine was then placed into ‘care and maintenance’, while further development approvals were sought by Unity Mining Limited, including the on site processing of the gold using cyanide.

Following a major campaign by local environmental groups (including Coastwatchers) and the public, the miner removed the application for the use of cyanide. Approval to mine was granted in 2016 by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission. Unity Mining was then acquired by Diversified Minerals Pty Ltd, a private company based in Orange NSW.

Construction of surface infrastructure commenced in early 2017 and continues to this day. Work on the mine proper commenced in May 2018, and will be ongoing for some time. A cylindrical road will progress downwards to a great depth, and all ore will be trucked to the top along this spiralling road.

The ore will be semi processed in a processing plant, with construction of this plant commencing in January 2019. The ore was to be then finally processed into ingots at Parkes, but that was not approved. The gold concentrate will now be shipped in containers to Port Kembla and taken off shore for processing. This is years away and apparently China has withdrawn agreement. The option of final processing at the company’s Henty mine in Tasmania, may still be considered.

The Dargues Reef Community Consultative Committee was formed in 2011.  It meets quarterly at Majors Creek and comprises an independent Chair, the miners, local government and members of the community. The CCC works well principally because the Chair is truly independent and highly professional. The Minister for Planning makes all committee appointments and the Chair is the only one remunerated.

Changes: The miner is in the process of submitting a new amendment to the existing approval (Modification 4). It is in 3 parts, two of which are administrative, and one which theoretically impacts on ground work.

The first matter is that the miner has acquired an adjoining farm and that addition has to be added to their overall holdings specified in the existing DA. It may have been acquired to reduce noise complaints.

Secondly, the company structure of the Miner altered when Diversified Minerals Pty Ltd (unlisted) purchased Unity Mining Limited (was ASX listed- not now). A new company has been added to the mix called Dargues Gold Mine Pty Ltd, which is the operator of the project. This may present another legal impediment in the event of noise or other problems, particularly a massive spill into the Deua National Park and the Deua River.

The third issue involves the relocation of the proposed new vehicular crossing over Spring Creek, to remain at the existing creek cross over point. Spring Creek is the initial tributary of the Deua River. This appears to be preferable in all regards, especially environmental degradation, and may have been over-looked when Modification 3 was considered.

It is proposed that this new Modification 4 will be lodged with NSW Planning by 30 November 2018 and placed on public exhibition from 3 December for 2 weeks to 17 December 2018. The CCC next meets on 18 December. There has been strong objection to this timing, expressed with the opinion that it should be exhibited until the end of January 2019. It is not the substance of the modification proposed, but an abuse of the public scrutiny process, which includes the CCC.

26 November 2018

Our thanks to Richard Roberts, a Coastwatchers member and former Secretary, who is currently a member of the Dargues Reef Mine Community Consultative Committee.

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