Residents fear impact proposed gold mine could have on river

SURROUNDING residents of the proposed gold mine near Blayney fear water may end up being contaminated as a result of the project. 

However, Regis Resources has assured that every care will be taken to ensure that is not the case. 

Long-term resident Rebecca Price, who has met with Regis twice, claims that the site map that has been released in the preliminary Environment Assessment (PEA) is of great concern.

“After speaking with Regis, they have confirmed that they are planning to have the tailings dam (260 hectares in size surface area) situated over the head of the Belubula river system, which consists of springs which feed the upper end of the river system,” she said.

“This, along with the sobering fact that the mine is also planning on using cyanide to extract the gold, is leaving the community very concerned.”

Ms Price said a tailings dam over the top of the headwaters would “disrupt the natural flow”, and any contamination of cyanide or residual toxins from the dam may harm the river. 

The Belubula river runs into the Lachlan River further down stream, and is used by irrigators as close as Canowindra for watering crops and lucerne paddocks.

“If the river becomes contaminated here, then it will also have the same effect down steam,” Ms Price said. 

She said it was a community issue and education would be key in moving forward.

It’s a point Regis agrees on. 

Manager of Special Projects for Regis, Tony McPaul, said it was important to note that water for the McPhillamys Gold Project would be sourced from the Springvale area.

“We don’t actually require any local water,” he said.

He affirmed that the plan is to use cyanide to recover gold, however a cyanide detoxification process has been included in the designs, meaning the levels of cyanide in the tailings “are extremely low when they are pumped out to the tailings dam”.

Further to that, he said the risks could be managed. 

“And our tailings dam would be built to Australian standards and it will have to be approved by the dam safety committee,” Mr McPaul said. “All that said, we’ve actually adopted a very conservative design for our dam wall.” 

Mr McPaul said Regis has been committed to ongoing community consultation to keep residents informed and that would continue into the future. 

“Even if we disagree on things, I’d love to think we can continue to communicate,” he said. “That is just so important, to have those open lines of communication.”

Mr McPaul said, as part of the community consultation, a letterbox drop has been conducted of residences within a four-kilometre radius of the operation. 

Regis has also sent out community newsletters and has held one-on-one meetings with a number of residents to discuss the project.

“We intend to have a McPhillamy’s district meeting, where we invite all of those people within a four-kilometre radius to come and talk to us,” Mr McPaul said.

“We’ll have open days where we bring along some of our consultants that do the work on the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) so the residents can actually ask them first hand for their views on what they’ve written in the studies they do.

“And then we’ll have broader community meetings, so that means anyone out of the Blayney district, or for that matter anyone else that is interested in the project, can come along.”

He noted that the PEA was part of the early stages of the project and residents concerns are welcomed at this point so they can be addressed before it progresses any further. 

People with concerns about the project are invited to contact Regis. The number for the corporate office is (08) 9442 2200.

Mr McPaul said there is a long process to follow from the PEA to having an operational mine. 

In the best-case scenario, the mine would be operational in the second half of 2020, following the completion of necessary documentation, approvals and a 12-month construction process.