Jackie French's Property and Dargues Reef Gold Mine

  • 13 Feb 2012 1:01 PM
    Message # 823533

    Good news has been received from Jackie French.  Her battle to protect her property, which is south of Braidwood and surrounding bushland, from mining damage has borne fruit.  The Land and Environment Court last week ruled that greatly improved environmental controls would be applied to the project and an extensive monitoring regime (water flows, stream health, etc) would be implemented.

    Permaculture Sydney North helped in a small way by making representations on behalf of Jackie to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and we are delighted to see that that Jackie's property and the conservation values of the area will now have a good measure of protection.

    The full text of Jackie's thank you message to all of her supporters follows:

    "Last week the NSW Land and Environment Court handed down it's decision over the appeal against the  approval conditions for the Dargues Reef Mine at Major's Creek, 4 km upstream of the Araluen Valley.

            Eurobodalla Shire had already won  a major upgrading  of the tailings dam and better monitoring and independent auditing of the monitoring results. The Coastwatchers and SERCA appeal that we have been supporting won another 46 new safeguards in a pre hearing agreement with the mining company. The Land and Environment Court then ordered another four conditions- two of them major ones to be added onto the other safeguards.
            What have we won?
            The new conditions not only make the project safer, but the community can now see the results of all monitoring. Independent experts will now evaluate if there is any loss of water to landowners or the bush downstream, or any change in water quality.
            The safeguards now need to be put into place before any mining begins. The monitoring includes not just measuring stream health and flow as well as test bores (many more than before, and in appropriate places) but now the health and water stress on the area's forests will be monitored, as are the 'stygofauna'- the small creatures that live in water- in all creeks and springs that might be affected.
            If there is any pollution at all, or any  loss of water in the creeks, springs or bores, or excess noise or dust it will be measured at the earliest possible stage, and all the ecological monitoring  has to be made public.
            This doesn't mean that there can't be any impact on the areas downstream. But it does mean that if there are, they'll be picked up very, very early by many different kinds of monitoring, and that all the monitoring has to continue until every relevant government authority says that there is no risk of any possible change because of mining.
            Of course Eurobodalla, Coastwatchers and SERCA shouldn't have had go to court to get these conditions- they should have been put in place by the  NSW Department of Planning and the Federal  Department of Environment, without so much cost in money, time and anguish from the community. But at least- and at last- they were put in place. And it was worth it.
            What now?
            AVAPPEC will 'monitor the monitoring'. We are also doing our own water and other testing.The new conditions  emphasise that there can be no any effect on the water or bush downstream. If there is, there will be the data to prove it, so that remediation can be enforced.
            Just now we are also working out the accounts to pay for the case, and trying to believe that we have won so much and that there isn't another submission to write next week. in a few weeks, maybe, when all legal accounts  have been settled, and we see that the safeguards and monitoring are being put in place, we'll all have enough time and energy to celebrate, and to thank everyone again for so much support over such a long time. 
            Thank You
            It is impossible just now to  than individually the hundreds of people who helped us with funds, expertise, encouragement and support.  The tireless determination of Corinna Novak, Megan Kessler and Kirsty Ruddock of the NSW Environmental Defenders' Office, and barrister Clifford Ireland enabled the achievement of the best possible conditions. Many many thanks go to Dr Andrew Merchant, Dr Stephen Debus, Dr Grant Hose, Dr William Milne-Home, Dr Don Driscoll and Mr Francis Grey for their expert reports. We owe them enormous thanks for their dedication and work.
            It's been a  privilege to work with Sheila Monahan of Coastwatchers, Lisa Stone of SERCA, and Penny Hayman and Robyn Clubb of AVAPPEC. They are extraordinary, inspiring women, who have  have achieved so much for the environment, not just in this appeal, but in many, many other ways. .
            There's no way this could have been achieved without the support of so many people. Every time it all seemed impossible, someone would phone or email,  offer to fund raise or send  a card. There were many times it seemed overwhelming, but every time, out of the blue, someone would appear to offer help or support exactly when it was needed.
            I can't thank you all enough.

    Summary of New Conditions
            If you'd like a copy of the exact conditions, showing what was won in each agreement, please let me know and I'll forward it to you.
     Eurobodalla  won major concessions.
    These included:
    1. An improved design for the tailings dam. Eurobodalla Council, Coastwatchers and SERCA were concerned that high rainfall events would cause the dam to overflow. However new design features that incorporate the need to consider the Possible Maximum Flood level for our region have eased our concerns about this.
    3. Increased monitoring of water quality and quantity throughout the life of the project (including during post mining rehabilitation).
    4. Independent auditing of that monitoring.
    5. Financial support for Eurobodalla Council to conduct independent audits.

    Eurobodalla Council's initial negotiations ensured that the management and monitoring of water quality will be more stringent and has greatly reduced the risks for all downstream.

    The Coastwatchers and SERCA Appeal
    An additional appeal was undertaken by Coastwatchers and SERCA. This appeal was supported by AVAPPEC, and by the hundreds of people who helped financially and with support and expertise.

    What Was Achieved   
    The main success is that we now have greater confidence that there should be no significant effect on the water quality or river base flows downstream of the mine, and there will be routine and regular monitoring of both water and bush health to ensure that if a problem does occur, the public will be aware of it and action can be taken.

    As part of the proceedings, Cortona undertook additional modelling of the proposed impacts and more detailed monitoring combined with ongoing modelling should make the project far safer. Any adverse impacts will be quickly picked up and acted upon.

          To summarise the new conditions:
    . Monthly monitoring of surface water flows and impacts on water users
    . The Surface Water Monitoring Program must now extend to the confluence of Majors Creek and Araluen Creek in the Araluen valley
    . A biannual monitoring of steam health and channel stability in Spring Creek and Majors Creek
    . A Biodiversity Management Plan that includes studies on the health of the Araluen Scarp Grassy Forest EEC in the Majors Creek State Conservation Area, as well as collection of detailed baseline data and ongoing monitoring of the health of the Tableland Basalt Forest EEC within the project site
    . Major incident reports and other relevant information must be made public within a reasonable period and no later than 28 days after the information is available;
    . Project related noise must not exceed INP criteria in the Majors Creek State Conservation Area
    . Measures to prevent birds and animals from entering the tailings dam
    . Surveys for breeding pairs of the Little Eagle and the preparation of a management plan to protect them, if required
    . Releasing water from the harvestable rights dams to maintain baseflow in Majors Creek until the loss of base flow because of the project is negligible
    . An offsite biodiversity offset, to protect additional areas of Tablelands Basalt Forest EEC;
    . A programme to identify and monitor stygofauna (small creatures that inhabit groundwater) within and surrounding the site
    . Collecting and storing native seed for rehabilitation of the area
    . Safeguards to make sure that any water released from the old workings will not have a negative impact on the water quality of Majors Creek;
    . The current groundwater model has been significantly improved using more data under a wider range of environmental conditions. Additional conditions relating to ongoing modelling, assessment of impacts on water quality and additional data collection requirements (both onsite and downstream) have also been imposed.
    . A requirement that if the actual impacts from the project are shown to be greater than predicted, the Proponent must consult with NOW (NSW Office of Water) to develop appropriate management and mitigation measures
    . Further consultation with indigenous stakeholders.
    . All water users downstream of the project can now register to be informed of the results of monitoring, or of any major incidents on the site.
    . An assessment report on the impact on areas and items of Indigenous significance, with a draft report given to representatives of the local Indigenous community, including registered stakeholders and those who subsequently register as stakeholders, and consult with local Aboriginal community representatives in relation to sites or items of actual or suspected Aboriginal heritage and ways the Proponent and community can work cooperatively for the benefit of both
    . Improved consultation with members of the downstream Araluen Community.
    . Further investigation of the hydrology of the tailings dam and improved monitoring around the tailings dam
    A copy of the full conditions of approval is available on request.
            Work on the Dargues Reef project continued during the appeal process, with the company working on the plans that need to be approved by the various government authorities before construction can begin.
            The Traffic Management Report and the Mining Operation Plan have already been submitted, but Cortona state that these can be changed after public consultation with the Dargues Reef Community Consultative Committee.
    The Community Consultative Committee.

    This is simply an advisory committee, but as the members will continue to stay as familiar as possible with what is happening with the mine, they can be contacted if there are questions, suggestions or complains.  Jackie French has been appointed a member of that committee, and can be emailed on
    Cortona have also assured that all monitoring results will be placed on their web site.  A confidential complaints register will be attended to within 24 hours and all questions responded to within 24 hours.  Finalisation with resolution and/or information may take longer, of course. The name of those who put in complaints will not be published, only the  complaints and action or resolutions .
    'Opt in' Register
    There is now an 'opt in register' of those living downstream who wish to be notified of all monitoring results, any possible accidents on site that may affect the water, and activities such as the spraying of herbicides that might run into Spring or Majors Creeks and thus into the Deua/ Araluen system. The 'opt in register' has now become part of the new conditions of approval.
    If you wish to be on this register, send your name, address and how you would like to be contacted (text, phone call, letter, email) to:
    Cortona Community Consultation Team
    You might also like to send a copy to the Chairman of the CCC committee, Peter Gordon

    Once Cortona has their mining license for the site, they will display a sign at the entrance that will give a number to call if there are problems or complains or questions.
    As of last week Cortona had not yet obtained their mining license for the site. They state that this should be granted soon. "

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