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VCAT approves mine evaporation ponds

Mandalay Resources’ will have to meet a range of new conditions when building a new facility at its Augusta Mine at Costerfield but is confident the community can rest easy on safety concerns.

BARBARA SUNGAILA July 2, 2014 3:10am

A community member expresses their feelings about the Splitters Creek evaporation facility.


The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has upheld a City of Greater Bendigo decision to approve the Splitters Creek evaporation facility associated with Mandalay Resources’ Augusta Mine at Costerfield.

Costerfield farmer Pam King, who led the application to have the council decision overturned, said she was pleased several additional conditions had been attached to the permit by VCAT.

‘‘It was a David and Goliath fight,’’ she said.

‘‘But if we didn’t fight it we wouldn’t have all these extra conditions.’’

The McIvor Times first reported on the issue in January 2013 when Ms King and her partner Colin Leask raised their concerns about the proposed evaporation ponds.

Mr Leask was worried about the loss of water catchment area for his dams and the potential for contamination by evaporation process residues.

Mandalay Resources said the facility was necessary to enable the mine to manage excess groundwater, particularly once mining of the newly-discovered Cuffley lode started.

The Splitters Creek facility application attracted 19 formal objections and was referred to Greater Bendigo councillors for a final decision.

A fiery debate at November’s council meeting lasted almost an hour in front of a public gallery packed with mine employees and objectors.

Councillor Peter Cox and Rod Fyffe opposed the recommendation to approve the facility and Cr Cox acknowledged the strain of balancing competing interests in making a decision on the issue.

‘‘It is a most difficult decision to make and I would say it’s probably the most difficult in my five years in council,’’ he said.

At the time several councillors said they believed the issue would be taken to VCAT regardless of council’s decision.

Council approval, however, would mean the 18 conditions council had attached to the permit were more likely to be upheld by VCAT.

Costerfield mine general manager Andre Booyzen said the company was happy about the VCAT decision and could start building the ponds.

‘‘We’re confident we can build it to exact engineering standards and operate it safely,’’ he said.

While there were now 24 conditions, rather than the original 18, he said they were not onerous and he sympathised with community concerns.

The Splitters Creek facility will include a series of shallow clay-lined ponds and a storage dam.

It will have a capacity of 190ML and an ability to evaporate 120ML per year in normal weather conditions.

The ponds will be built above the ground’s natural surface level to stop outside surface water entering the ponds.

The full VCAT decision can be read at www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VCAT/2014/688.html

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