Few answers at mineral sands mine meeting

ANSWERS were in short supply at an information session last Wednesday on the proposed Fingerboard mineral sands open-cut mine at Glenaladale, between Stratford and Bairnsdale.

About 100 local people attended the meeting to hear how the drilling and extraction of heavy metals might affect farms and nearby residents, but were told little more than that answers would be in the Environmental Effects Statement, which has not been finalised.

One of the main protestors of the mine, a group calling itself Minefree Glenaladale, claims Wednesday's turnout showed fears were growing among Wellington Shire farmers and residents near Glenaladale that drilling for the heavy metals could affect soil, air and water quality.

Up to 40 B-double trucks are expected to take material to and from the mine every day, to take deposits via the state road network to Port Anthony or rail directly to Port of Melbourne.

The mine will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at the 1400 hectare site.

Minefree Glenaladale member Sharon Clerk said there were also concerns that a large allotment of land had been purchased by Kalbar in Stratford to house the project's trucks and infrastructure, but this was denied by project community engagement consultant Martin Richardson.

"That's a rumour," he told the Gippsland Times.

In 2013, Kalbar bought the Gippsland Heavy Mineral Sands Project from Rio Tinto.

The company is now seeking exploration licences for the project, which will drill for titanium and zircon, and is currently pursuing water licences in the area to allow it to meet its requirement for up to four gigalitres ever year.

Late last year the Planning Minister required an Environment Effects Statement be prepared before final approval is given.

A consultation plan is currently being developed.

Ms Clerk said people wanted more transparency from Kalbar.

"There were lots of people at the public information session and we were told nothing, except that it will all be in the Environmental Effects Statement," she said.

"We are concerned because we have been told different things about the number of B-double trucks going though the Gippsland area to and from the mine every day.

"First it was two to four, now it's 40, and we don't know which of the three proposed routes the trucks will take," she said.

"Which towns will all those trucks go through every single day?

"Now the company won't confirm where they are getting the huge amounts of the water they need from, and we know they are interested in buying water licences from land owners nearby.

"When you take between three to four gigalitres of water every year, that doesn't leave much left and that has to have an effect on the area."

The water requirements are expected to be obtained by water trading, with water from the Boisdale Formation aquifer, between Sale and Lake Wellington, or from the Mitchell River.

Wellington Shire Council declined to comment, as the proposal was still "in its early stages".

Gippsland Senior
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