According to a coalition of farmers and environmentalists recent discharges of sediment-laden stormwater from a Southern Tablelands gold mine could have been avoided if the company responsible hadn’t relied on inaccurate rainfall measurements.
On February 24 after heavy rainfall, the Dargues Reef gold mine discharged the stormwater into Major’s Creek near Braidwood.
As the Canberra Times reported, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) issued the mine’s operator, Big Island Mining with an immediate Clean-Up Notice as a result of the breach.
The Araluen Valley Agricultural Producers and Protectors of the Ecosystem Coalition claims that the mine’s original plans under-estimated the rainfall of the Araluen district where the mine is situated.
They say that the plans relied on rainfall figures for Braidwood which has a rainfall that is 20 per cent lower than the rainfall of Major’s Creek.
Orchardist Robyn Clubb who lives in the Araluen district says that extremely heavy rainfall is common in her area. For example, once in 2010 110 millimetres of rain fell in just 45 minutes.
Unlike in Braidwood, the rainfall in the Araluen district is influenced by the coastal weather as well as by surrounding mountains.
Clubb claims that this rainfall data was submitted to the mine planners but it didn’t seem to have been used.
Following their breach notice, the EPA will investigate the incident. Spokesman, Gary Whitcross said that the authority had 12 months to investigate the water release and decide whether or not there would be any prosecution.
He said that, while the release wasn’t toxic, it could potentially impact on the health of the waterways.
There have been a number of mine water release incidents in recent times. Rio Tinto was fined for a similar infringement, following recent floods in Central Queensland.
And the January floods in Queensland led to the release of toxic mine water.