Forest mining licence angers community

Many in the central Victorian community fought long and hard against a proposed gold mine in the Wombat Forest. This approval for substantial sampling in the forest is a worrying development.

The following article comes from The Courier newspaper (Journalist is Emma-Jane Schenk).

For additional information check the Wombat Forest Care website.

Heathy Dry Forest near Shepherds FlatThe approval of a 53.8-hectare gold mining licence in the Wombat State Forest has raised environmental and social concerns. 

The ten-year licence will allow for the recovery of gold and bulk sampling at Shepherds Flat, pending a planning permit or Environmental Effects Statement. 

Bendigo-based Sandy Mining Pty Ltd will carry out the works, and already has a four-hectare mining licence and work plan within the site. 

The expanded 53.8 hectare area covers a number of waterways, which form part of the headwaters of Jim Crow Creek in the Loddon River Catchment. 

The site also borders an aboriginal protectorate and is used by many neighbouring organic farmers for water access, says Wombat Forestcare’s David Stephens. 

Prominent businesses Lavandula and Cricket Willow also sit beside the site. 

It’s clear (the government) is sidestepping environmental, social and community concerns,” Mr Stephens said. 

We thought they might approve a one or two year licence but allowing ten years just feels like desecration of the forest.” 

He also worries what precedent the decision will have for future mining on public land. 

Wombat Forestcare’s Gayle Osbourne added concerns about the potential to disturb historic mining products such as mercury.

The DEPI and Minister for Environment Lisa Neville were contacted for comment. 

A government spokesman responded on their behalf, saying a regulator spent a year assessing 22 objections about potential damage to flora and fauna, possible water contamination and impacts on property values.  

When asked how environmental impacts would be monitored, he said there would be a rehabilitation bond to cover the cost of site remediation.

The work plan will also address issues such as buffer zones, native vegetation offsets, fire risk management, water and soil management, dust, noise, and hours of operation.

A letter from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources detailing the reasons for the approval has also been seen by The Courier.

It says “environmental impacts will be assessed prior to work being approved”. 

Sandy Mining and Hepburn Shire have been contacted for comment. 

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