Nowa Nowa landholders say iron ore mine approval is rushed

Mining company Eastern Iron has been granted a licensce from the State Government to mine for iron ore seven kilometres north of Nowa Nowa. Members of the Wairewa and District Landcare Group say the project is being rushed through approvals and are worried about its viability.

The company has released is preparing a environment effects statement (EES) in order to get the final go ahead to mine.

The studies contributing to the company’s EES are available on the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure’s website for public exhibition.

Peter Vaughn, of the Wairewa and District Landcare Group, says some landholders in the area aren’t satisfied with the amount of research into the potential impacts on how mining could affect ground water levels.

“The reports done by the mining company talk about three shafts that have been sunk to gauge groundwater and they haven’t actually determined which way the groundwater is flowing, they talk about inidicative flow, they don’t know what volume, what pressure,” he says.

The mine is situated near the headwaters of Hospital Creek catchment which flows into the Wairewa Valley.

Mr Vaughn says any drop in ground water pressure will affect local farmer’s abilities to access water to irrigate and give to stock.

The Landcare group is also worried the project will not be economically viable and could go bust leaving damage to the environment and a large clean up bill.

“The mine may not be in for the long haul. It’s a very small deposit [of iron ore] and it relies on an iron ore price and if something happens to that price and the mining company packs up shop in four years… the public will have to pick up the clean up,” he says.

The Gippsland Lakes lie downstream of the propsed iron ore mine and are covered by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that aims to protect wetlands.

“Now all the approval proccesses are falling back to the State Government and we’re concerned that the State Government agencies don’t have the expertise to properly assess Ramsar listings,” Mr Vaughn says.

Eastern Iron is proposing to transport mined iron ore by road to a port south of Eden in New South Wales.

Francine Gilfedder, another member of the Landcare group, says the Princes Highway is already in a poor condition and won’t be able to withstand any further traffic from mining operations without significant ongoing maintenance.

“Twenty four hour b-double transport for eight to ten years carrying heavy iron ore it’s got to do some damage to the road,” she says.

Russell Northe, Minister for Energy and Resources and MP for Morwell, says there is opportunities for employment in mining projects.

“We look at the benefits of developing commodities in the future and the economic benefits not only regional communities but to the State of Victoria,” he says.

In the 2014 state budget 15 million was allocated to drive more mineral exploration in Victoria.

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