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Concern over Sunday Creek gold mine prospects

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Max Davies
Max Davies
Max is a journalist for the North Central Review. He joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 2021 and graduated from La Trobe University in 2023. He takes a keen interest in motorsport and the automotive industry.

Members of the Clonbinane community have voiced concerns over a potential gold and antimony mine at Sunday Creek if current exploration works prove fruitful.

The Sunday Creek exploration project, operated by Southern Cross Gold, covers about 19,365 hectares over localities including Sunday Creek, Waterford Park, Reedy Creek, and Clonbinane.

Southern Cross Gold is currently operating under an exploration licence – issued by the Resources branch of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions – and would not be the operator of a future mine at the Sunday Creek site.

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Managing director Michael Hudson said there was a key distinction between exploration and mining, with the former typically much less impactful on the environment and communities.

“Exploration can lead to mining, otherwise we wouldn’t be spending our money trying to find something,” he said.

“There’s always risks and a lot of work to be done to get to any eventual mine, and most often they’re not [mined], but what we’re finding is quite encouraging.”

Southern Cross Gold general manager Lisa Gibbons.

The key concern for many residents is the mining of antimony.

While once considered a nuisance by past explorers, antimony is now highly valuable for its applications in metal alloying and electric vehicle and grid storage batteries, as well as in defence and industry for its fire-retardant properties.

According to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, DCCEEW, antimony can be toxic to humans depending on quantity and length of exposure.

Antimony exists naturally in the environment, and the general population is exposed to low levels everyday. Worksafe Australia classifies antimony as hazardous and various industries can release it into the air, resulting in higher levels in air, water and soil.

A letter sent to the Review by members of the Clonbinane community raised concerns over potential contamination of Sunday Creek Reservoir and the impact on residents and the environment.

“Thousands of people and children could be affected through contamination either by air or by entering our waterways and fresh rainwater tanks. Even our lovely natural creeks,” the letter said.

“We are very concerned about water and land contamination and the long-term health effects on our children, families, livestock and farms.”

The letter also addressed impacts on bore water supplies, while Sunday Creek Dry Creek Landcare member Jacqui Fulton raised the issue of water-use during both exploration and mining.

“Sunday Creek is a creek that goes underground as well as above ground, so our underground water and the usage of that is a real issue,” she said.

“Do we know what’s underground? How much do bores take out? Do we keep a record of that? Do we know? There’s just a lot of unknowns.

“I do appreciate that Southern Cross Gold attempted to answer questions as far as they know, but they often don’t know the answers to questions because there’s a lot of possibilities there.”

Resources Victoria is responsible for enforcing, monitoring and managing compliance of mining activities under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, MRSDA.

Under the MRSDA, ‘the licence holder needs to meet specific conditions and provide an approved work plan’.

Licence-holders are also responsible for minimising environmental, health and safety impacts on the mining region and the community.

Mr Hudson maintained Southern Cross Gold was ‘amazingly transparent’ and would endeavour to keep the community informed as best it could.

“That’s who we need to be and who we are, so we will absolutely share all information and bring people along with us as we learn what we’re learning,” he said.

“At the moment, it’s an exciting exploration project, and we get a lot of questions about engineering things before we’ve even got an answer to any of that, so guessing information is hard to do for a variety of reasons.

“We’re doing a whole lot of baseline work at the moment … just determining what the actual situation is while we’re in a completely low-impact [phase].”

Resources Victoria requires licence-holders provide monitoring and reporting data demonstrating compliance with the requirements of a mining licence and can be subject to a peer review or audit to verify findings and qualify any data concerns. 

Exploration companies also have a duty to manage environmental impacts and consider land-use concerns, and must ensure measures are taken to minimise the impacts of drilling operations.

Southern Cross Gold is currently operating four diamond drill rigs at Sunday Creek to search for significant gold and antimony reserves up to one kilometre below the surface.

“If we had a different strategy, we could try and say ‘we got a small amount of gold here, we could start a smaller operation’,” Mr Hudson said.

“That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to start something that has a generational scale.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This is going to be devastating and it’s a major public health and safety issue.
    The local government representatives, The Mitchell Shire Council and Goulburn Valley Water need to stop this proposed Antimony mine from opening as they are responsible for protecting the health and safety of all the locals who use Sunday Creek reservoir as a fresh water source. Even the neighbours and their fresh water rain tanks could be effected.
    This needs to be stopped.

  2. “Generational scale”, so this is going to be huge and toxic for the Mitchell Shire. Extremely concerning for the health and safety of the public and our fresh water supply.
    Refer to articles of what happened in Costerfield, Victoria. Toxic water everywhere and devastating health effects on the local the Community. Even the government ordered the Costerfield
    Mine to supply water bottles for locals to drink and cook with because after testing everyone’s water they found all the water was contaminated
    This is a matter of public safety!
    I hope Goulburn Valley Water are aware and are monitoring our water supply continuously.
    This should not happen!
    How is this ok?

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