Concerns over mineral sands mine

A. Rose, Fernbank

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

KALBAR Resources, which proposes to establish a mineral sands mine at Glenaladale, needs to talk less about the geological and operational aspects of its mine.

We need less talk too about the goods manufactured from the processed minerals, and instead listen more to the realities experienced by local communities where mineral sands mines have been established.

We need to listen to the concerns and experiences of the Glenaladale farmers who have an intimate knowledge of the land they have farmed over several generations, the vagaries of the weather patterns, the sodic quality of the soil and the topography of the land.

Our bureaucrats in east Gippsland must also show leadership, assume responsibility and not hide behind the government’s Environmental Effect Statement process which should guarantee that the community and environment won’t be exposed to unnecessary risk.

However history has proven this is not infallible, because both political and commercial interests too often exceed community and environmental concerns.

If East Gippsland Shire Council is truly concerned about protecting its ratepayers and the unique environment the region embraces, from the potential risks associated with mineral sands mining so close to the Mitchell River, it must urgently undertake a thorough, independent investigation of the impacts of mineral sand mining at the Glenaladale site.

Unrealistic, ambitious aspirations for a questionable injection of jobs and money into Bairnsdale and the region must be tempered with the sober reality that mines are not sustainable developments.

In the case of the proposed Fingerboards mine, the hopes for commercial gain should not be secondary to the welfare of its ratepayers, the unique biodiversity of the region, and the sustainable development of its agricultural, horticultural and tourism industries.

State politicians too, who approve mining projects, must be prepared to take full responsibility and compensate for any damage that might occur and not hide behind a flawed EES process.

Too often decisions are influenced by the political aspirations of the government of the day.

Ratepayers should not be expected to pay for reparation when things go wrong.

Concerns include inadequate rehabilitation of the mine site and excavation pits and the possibility of a flawed offsetting program to compensate for the impact of the loss of trees cut down to make way for the mine pits.

There are also fears of the loss of shallow aquifers which farmers and their stock depend on, and health concerns for workers who could inhale silica dust and be exposed to radioactive materials such as Thorium, which could also leach into water bodies and farmland.