Yesterday's announcement of federal government approval for the Hillside copper project on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula has met with criticism from landowners and agriculture industry spokepeople, who say the mine will conflict with SA's image as a premium food and wine state.
Grain Producers SA CEO Darren Arney said the mine was a "slap in the face" to primary producers as the mine would ruin prime agricultural land.
“This proposal has already caused untold stress on the families and businesses affected and now their fertile farm land will be destroyed by an open-cut mine and a mountain of overburden and impurities,” he said.
Arney suggested the mine will use one gigalitre of River Murray water through SA Water’s system.
"That is enough to irrigate the entire Barossa wine region. And it was only a few years ago that the Murray was under such stress that Adelaide was on water restrictions," he said.
South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy CEO Jason Kuchel claimed many farmers also supported the mining industry in the region, and said that it was farmers who had to willingly sell their land in order for the mine to go ahead, and that others were currently negotiating land sales.
Kuckel also pointed out that the mining industry will provide a much needed source of income for farming families during times of drought through alternative employment.
"Families wishing to stay on the Yorke Peninsula will more readily have that chance with a diversified economy, particularly through times of drought," he said.
"It even enables generational farming, as a son or daughter can learn the farming trade while supporting their families through income from mining."
The SACOME chief said that only 0.16 per cent of the land used for farming on the Yorke Peninsula will be affected after rehabilitation.
"It would take more than 21,000 years of grain production on this piece of land to generate the same revenue the mine will produce over its life of 15 years," he said.
The Hillside copper project has undergone 6.5 years of exploration and 3.6 years of community consultation and regulatory review, and the news has been heralded as a major milestone by managing director Mark Parry.
“This is an important outcome for Rex and I am pleased that Hillside is one step closer to becoming a producing mine,” he said.
Parry said Hillside contains Australia’s largest open pit copper reserves, located near Ardrossan, which will create jobs and further economic benefits for the local community.
Once completed Hillside is expected to deliver an average of up to 100,000 tonnes of copper equivalent production per year over it’s more than 15 year mine life.
Parry also said the project will bring in additional power and fresh water infrastructure to the region.
Rex is now considering the terms of the offer and conditions laid down by the South Australian government, and once accepted Rex will be able to proceed with site development.
Hillside has already received environmental Commonwealth consent, as well as state approvals for road network and port upgrades at Ardrossan.
It is understood that construction of the Hillside processing plant will begin later in 2015, subject to financing and timely progress of the final feasibility study.