THE East Gippsland Greens are ramping up their push to keep food production a priority in the region, and mining projects such as Kalbar’s mineral sands mine out of agricultural areas.
The party’s co-convenor, Deb Foskey, said they would use the elections at state and federal levels to promote a future based on the region’s “unique strengths”, and develop a vision “that will focus on economic and ecological sustainability”.
“Using sustainability as our key criterion makes it easy to evaluate what is good for the region and what will harm our future,” she said.
“Food production is a major strength, and good marketing will ensure that East Gippsland’s clean, green brand is sought by discerning restaurants and home cooks.
“Mining in our food bowl might provide jobs for a limited time, but will ensure that food production is set back and the clean, green image lost.
“For this reason, we are supporting the growing number of farmers opposing Kalbar’s mineral sands mine.”
Greens member Jeremy Schroder, who has been following the Kalbar mine issue, said there were real concerns that recent refinements announced by Kalbar were so significant that they needed to be “put on the table” as a new project.
Earlier this month, Kalbar announced it had made changes to its proposed mine, including a second mining unit plant, modified arrangements for storage of residual material and additional mining equipment and transport requirements.
The proposed mine, near Glenaladale, is expected to produce minerals sands products including titanium, zircon and rare earths, which are used in a wide range of household and industrial applications.
Kalbar has said the refinements would improve production efficiency, modify the location of mine infrastructure and reduce the annual water requirements for the project.
Refinements to the methods of separating and storing the mined material on the site have also been proposed.
But Mr Schroder questioned the timing of the announcement of the major changes, coming “just after the Technical Reference Group had decided the terms of the scoping requirements of the Environmental Effects Statement”.
He said Kalbar claimed its refinements were a response to community concerns.
“Is shifting the processing plant from an environmentally sensitive area to a new location nearer to at least nine houses really resolving a community concern or is it just creating another issue?” he questioned.
“Is expanding the project area from 1440ha to 1675ha addressing community concerns, or is it a catalyst which will only further antagonize the community?
“Is destroying the landmark Finger Boards after the community has put in so much work there a wise move?”
Mr Schroder also questioned Kalbar’s claims on a local radio interview that 80 per cent of landholders in the area supported the mine.
He said road and transport changes were also significant, with plans for a major road realignment of Glenaladale Rd, a heavy vehicle underpass, straightening of Dargo Rd and 40 B-double trucks per day.
“The community is rightly concerned that these decisions are being made without modelling or data,” he said.
“It looks like taxpayers and ratepayers will be expected to cover the costs of additional essential services and roads maintenance.”
Ms Foskey said the Kalbar project put east Gippsland at the crossroads.
“The Greens will test East Gippslanders’ views at forthcoming elections,” she said.
Kalbar managing director Neil O’Loughlinrecently told the Gippsland Times the mine presented a great opportunity for investment in the region, and the firm “must ensure that all potential impacts of the project can be properly managed”.
He said a more detailed evaluation of the Glenaladale deposit had been carried out, and some of the proposed methods of mineral extraction had been modified now there was a better understanding of the resource and the strong global market conditions.