PLANS to establish a new gold mine at Blayney have never been far from controversy.
At first there was the debate over whether Bathurst Regional Council should sell its treated effluent to Regis Resources to allow the mine to go ahead.
That issue brought together a broad community alliance that was concerned by the impact such a sale could have on the health of the Macquarie River.
In a rare show of solidarity, conservationists and farmers who rely on the river downstream stood side-by-side to oppose the sale, supported by the local Wiradyuri community that has strong cultural links to the river.
What was never revealed, however, was just how much council stood to make each year from the deal.
We will never know if the lure of $1-$2 million each year would have changed the community’s view on the issue but, in the end, it did not matter.
After councillors voted in February 2016 to defer a decision on the water sale until Regis had prepared a full environment impact statement, the company saw the writing on the wall and went in pursuit of other options.
Regis eventually signed a deal that would see it pump between four and five gigalitres of waste water each year from the Mount Piper Power Station and Springvale Mine near Lithgow – a distance of around 70 kilometres.
It was far from ideal solution for Regis but was the only deal remaining on the table.
Now, before a single gold deposit has been taken out of the ground, Regis is again offside with the community – this time people living around Blayney.
Plans to have a 260-hectare tailings dam situated over the head of the Belubula River system – combined with the use of cyanide to extract the gold – has residents worried about the potential for an environmental disaster.
Regis has assured the community it will do all it can to prevent such a scenario and would comply with all Australian regulations with regard to construction of the dam, but we don’t have to look far for an example of a tailings dam collapse – just up the road to Cadia, in fact.
Regis is making a big deal of maintaining open communication with residents as it continues planning its new mine.
It’s obvious, though, that the public relations war is far from won just yet.