Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Daily Examiner editor comments on plans to mine antimony on the NSW North Coast

Comment by David Bancroft, Editor, The Daily Examiner, Page 10, 27 October 2011:
Digging up mining dirt
MANY readers will be tempted to look at who is issuing the warning about antimony mining in our page three story today and not at what they are saying. That would be a mistake because what is being said has real substance.
Greens upper house member Jeremy Buckingham is clearly deeply concerned about the risks posed to Wild Cattle Creek and the Nymboida and Clarence rivers from proposed antimony and gold mining in the Wild Cattle Creek and Dorrigo plateau areas.
As we have said in this space previously, the consequences of a pollution spill during mining operations would have dire consequences for the Clarence and Coffs Harbour water supplies as well as the beef, dairy, fishing, horticulture and tourism industries of the Clarence Valley.
The ABC's 7.30 Report last Friday illustrated what can happen when the holding ponds of an antimony mine overflow.
It showed the Hillgrove mine, near Armidale, more than 100km from the coast. It has leaked contaminants into the Macleay River system and there are now exaggerated levels of pollutants from Hillgrove to the sea. Environment Minister Robyn Parker has already told parliament that pollution will be evident for "millennia".
Authorities are giving conflicting advice on the impact, on one hand saying there is no health threat to humans and on the other advising residents the water is unfit to drink.
Can you imagine what the impact on the tourism industry alone would be from the publicity that would surround pollution of the Clarence?
And it is just one of the industries that face potentially disastrous consequences from heavy metal mining.
We should not dismiss the prospect of mining out of hand because of the environmental risks - mining is essential.
But before we consider an application with such risks we should be absolutely certain we are not going to put long-term industries at risk for a relatively short-term gain.

Also Green's contamination fears by David Bancroft, 27 October 2011.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Saffin speaks out against mining threats to Clarence River catchment waterways

The Daily Examiner, letters to the editor, 25 October 2011:

Significant threat to waterways

I was pleased to see the expanded Daily Examiner coverage online of a mooted mining exploration project (DEX 5 October, 2011 "Significant threat to waterways"), having been alerted to the growing concern in the area by a Dorrigo resident and having just commenced some fact finding to see if the project would impact in our backyard. (Yes, it is a clear case of protecting your own backyard.)

The Daily Examiner asked all the right questions - questions which the Federal National Party MP Luke Hartsuyker should be asking.

Granted, 60 new jobs would be of great benefit to the region but what if those jobs are at the expense of hundreds of other jobs lost as the result of contamination of the Clarence River, impacting on industries such as tourism, agriculture and fisheries?

We need to carefully consider any threat of contamination of our water supply.

The water supply that provides, among other things, drinking water, irrigation and commercial and recreational fishing activities for the Clarence Valley and surrounds.

Through earlier "NOT A DROP" campaigns started by the Daily Examiner, I have made it abundantly clear of my commitment to the Clarence River not  losing a drop of water, despite questionable schemes such as diverting the Clarence inland.

This time "NOT A DROP" means we don't poison a drop of Clarence water, as the history of this type of mining is littered with pollution of waterways, water sources and nearby communities.

Mr Price of Anchor Resources is quoted as saying: "Using world best practice, there will be no contamination."

I have written to Mr Price on our behalf to ask him what "world best practice" actually involves and how it would prevent one iota of poison from entering the Clarence catchment.

I shall keep constituents informed through the local media of the progress of my approach to Anchor Resources.


Federal Member for Page

*Hat tip to Clarrie Rivers of North Coast Voices for providing the transcript!

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Saturday, 22 October 2011

21-22 October 2011 media coverage of NSW North Coast antimony contamination risks

The ABC TV program 7.30 NSW aired graphic footage of existing antimony contamination and canvassed the risks of reopening an old Wild Cattle Creek antimony mine in the Clarence River catchment.

It can be viewed here:

The Sydney Morning Herald also addressed the issue of historic and recent contamination from the Hillgrove antimony mine:

A PLUME of toxic pollution from an old antimony mine appears to have killed fish for dozens of kilometres along the Macleay River in northern NSW.....
a study published by the CSIRO in 2009 described the waterways near the mothballed mine as ''highly contaminated'' and estimated about 7000 tonnes of waste had accumulated along the bed of the Macleay River.

Water tests have shown antimony levels at 250 times background levels, with high levels detected along the river to the coast at Urunga, where the mineral was once processed for export.

The ABC program is remarkable for its vivid illustration of the incompetence of the current NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker and, her willingness to utter untruths.

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Friday, 21 October 2011

All that glitters is not gold

Letter to the Editor in The Daily Examiner 20 October 2011:
I read with interest The Daily Examiner article “Our Valley of riches: Miners homing in on billion-dollar resources” on 10 October 2011.
The fact that “Red Sky Energy has also signaled to investors that it envisages gross revenues of $4 billion from its Clarence Moreton Project”, that on today’s gold prices Centius Gold could realize “$2.3 billion in revenues” and, that Anchor Resources is progressing towards re-opening old workings during a period of record antimony metal prices, might lead one to suppose that the NSW Treasury along with communities on the Dorrigo Plateau and in the Bellingen, Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley local government areas might see a hefty financial benefit from all this commercial activity.
This is far from the reality of the modern mining industry in Australia.
Not only will the number of mining jobs be small, as Anchor Resources’ admission that it is only looking to create 60 positions to last less than ten years clearly demonstrates, but the bulk of mining profits derived from the projected shaft and open-cut mining may never see taxation applied.
So adding little to the O’Farrell Government coffers and thereby giving even less to NSW residents by way of government resources.
In the case of coal seam gas mining specifically, the NSW Government has granted a five year moratorium on the payment of mining royalties [NSW Dept. of Primary Industries,2011]. In that matter of gold mining, it will be exempt from the federal proposed mineral resources rent tax no matter how large the profits of individual companies [SMH 28.09.11].
As for mining generally; in 2007-08 Australian Taxation Office statistics recorded 4,290 mining companies having combined incomes which totaled $160,323,192,189, which in turn had combined taxable incomes of $29,010,243,407 and net tax actually paid was $8,068,463,15 after all allowed deductions had been made. Mining royalty payments made in that financial year added up to a tax deductible $3,924,902,975.

Of these 4,290 mining companies, there were some who paid no tax at all and these comprised 68.3 per cent of all mining companies. Which means only around 1,360 mining companies Australia-wide paid tax in that year.

How did they do that? Well, there are at least 20 deductions, rebates, concessions, exemptions, offsets etc., available to the mining industry and their combined value is literally worth billions. In 2007-08 the industry total for expenses claimed under R&D concessions alone was $2,508,321,897 and immediate deduction for capital expenditure $3,785,347,506.

It is worth noting that in 2007 the Business Council of Australia in “Tax Nation” stated: "Taxes collected are negative for the mining industry group because as major exporters survey participants reported a significant GST refund which more than offset other taxes collected." []
In other words, from all these billions of dollars quarried from mining ventures on the NSW North Coast state government and taxpayers are likely to receive nothing or next to nothing once annual tax returns are lodged.

A state of affairs all candidates in the forthcoming Clarence by-election might like to consider before deciding on what policy position they will take in relation to mining in the environmentally sensitive Nymboida River section of the wider Clarence River catchment area.


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The irony did not pass unnoticed

The Daily Examiner Letters to the Editor 13 October 2011:

Hands off
I FIND it highly amusing to have the people out west telling their neighbours to get their hands off "our water".
The Macquarie pipeline, taking water from the Macquarie River to enhance the water supply for Orange, is being met with stiff opposition from the folk from Forbes.
They even have enlisted Ian Kiernan to head their rally on Saturday.
It seems it is okay to want to divert water from the Clarence, but when it comes to a small pipeline to help Orange out of their woes, it's hands off. Although it's okay for Wellington, Bathurst and Dubbo to have Macquarie River water for their consumption.
The fishers out west seem to understand about the impact on fish by having reduced flows, so it will be good to have them onside next time some loony starts up about all that Clarence River water going out to sea and being wasted.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Daily Examiner editor leads the way on local media questioning proposed antimony mine

Photograph of rainforest on the Dorrigo Plateau
taken from
Rain, runoff and rare metals – the toxic threat to the Dorrigo Plateau
Karl Vernes
Senior Lecturer,
School of Environmental & Rural Science at University of New England

The Daily Examiner Comment article by editor David Bancroft 12 October 2011 Page 10:

Digging up dirt on mine  

The spill occurred after continued wet weather produced excess stormwater which exceeded the amount of water that could be stored in the dam.”

THE NSW Minister for Finance, Greg Pearce, may have inadvertently rung an enormous alarm bell for Clarence Valley residents with comments last month about the Hillgrove antimony mine, east of Armidale.
Mr Pearce, who represents the environment minister in the Upper House, was asked by Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham what the government was doing to ensure a proposed antimony mine at Wild Cattle Creek did not pollute the Nymboida River.
Mr Buckingham said there had been evidence of contamination from the Hillgrove mine and wanted to know what was being done to prevent contamination of the Nymboida or further contamination of the Macleay from the existing pollution.
Mr Pearce initially shrugged off the question, suggesting he didn’t understand what Mr Buckingham was asking.
But later he returned and said: “The Office of Environment and Heritage was notified that stormwater was overflowing from a dam at the Hillgrove mine, east of Armidale, at 11.45am on Monday, August 29, 2011. The mine is currently not operating but is in care-and-maintenance mode. The spill occurred after continued wet weather produced excess stormwater which exceeded the amount of water that could be stored in the dam.”
“I am advised that historic mining from more than 100 years ago and erosion of highly mineralised soils have deposited a plume of material containing heavy metals in the river system from the Hillgrove area to the Pacific Ocean, an area of approximately 200km. That is quite a plume. I am further advised that the plume will continue to release elevated levels of heavy metals through physical, biological and chemical processes for millennia.”
Mr Pearce, we want absolute guarantees there will be no leaching of toxins into the Nymboida and subsequently the Clarence, and if that means no mining, so be it.

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

O'Farrell Government shows open contempt towards NSW North Coast communities

Living in regional New South Wales often leads one to suspect that any state government of the day and its minsters rarely display an understanding of (or empathy with)  the aspirations, problems or concerns of distant local communities.

This was clearly demonstrated when a question raising concerns on behalf of residents and ratepayers living on the NSW North Coast in the Dorrigo, Belligen, Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley districts was put to the Coalition Government in the NSW Legislative Council last month.

Highlighted below the contemptuous, party-politics-before-people response which was given by the O’Farrell Government:

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Finance and Services, representing the Minister for the Environment. I thank the Minister for his detailed answer previously revealing that the Macleay River has been contaminated by the Hillgrove antimony mine for millennia—which is thousands of years, in case he does not remember. Ancoa has a proposal to reopen the Hillgrove antimony mine responsible for much of this contamination. Anchor Resources plans a new antimony mine at Wild Cattle Creek at the top of the Nymboida River. Given the toxicity of antimony and history of contamination, what is the Government doing to ensure that these mines will not further contaminate the Macleay River and contaminate the Nymboida River?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: Last week I commented upon the member's North Korean controller and the need to translate his questions from Korean to code, then from code to Korean, and then from Korean to English. I said that his questions are garbled. If anyone could make sense of that question, I invite them to answer it for me. I could not follow it at all—I really could not. I invite the member to put the question on notice to get a detailed answer.

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Thursday, 6 October 2011

What the Clarence Valley is fighting for (17)

Photograph by Debrah Novak


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Antimony and arsenic pollution levels no-one speaks about - until now

In North Coast Voices this week:

Water Wars: Not good enough, Richie!
“DANGEROUSLY high levels of arsenic and antimony in Mine Creek, which feeds into Wild Cattle Creek, has ignited debate about antimony mining in an area which leads into the water supply of the Clarence and Coffs Harbour regions.
Wild Cattle Creek is one of the major tributaries of the Nymboida River which leads into the Clarence and also supplies water to Shannon Creek Dam.
A map commissioned by Anchor Resources, the company which is licenced to explore, but not mine the site at Beilsdown, shows Mine Creek at one point had 377 ug/litre (parts per billion) of antimony which is 126 times the Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council's (ANZECC) guidelines for drinking water.
Arsenic levels at the same spot were 85 ug/litre - more than 12 times the ANZECC drinking water guidelines.
The map is dated September 19, 2011.” {The Daily Examiner on 5th October 2011 in Significant threat to waterways}
This is a section of the map published alongside the quoted article (hat tip to Clarencegirl's friends):
Even I can work out that if past antimony and gold mining in parts of the Clarence River catchment have resulted in persistent pollution which is likely to remain for centuries, then it’s not a brilliant idea to sit back and let the O’Farrell Government in faraway Sydney agree to new mining in the area which can possibly stuff up Clarence waterways and increase health risks faced by local communities and the businesses which keep them afloat.
But lord luvva duck! Sometimes you have to wonder what happens to some men’s spines after they catch a glimpse of a golden chance – the right to strut down Macquarie Street and plant their behinds on the government pews in Parliament House alongside Bazza and his mates.
Faced with evidence from a report commissioned by the Chinese-owned mining exploration company, Anchor Resources, Clarence Valley Mayor and Nationals pre-selection candidate, Richie Williamson, had this to say in The Daily Examiner on 5th October 2011; Should the mine progress, council will not be taking a back seat on the issue".
Gone is any hint of outright opposition – or heaven forfend, a proactive approach - to this latest threat to the quality and safety of fresh water flowing down the Nymboida River and on into the kitchen taps of Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour homes. Instead there is p*ss weak acceptance that what China wants China gets.
Seems the boys from Anchor really did a number on Richie at that last meeting with council.
The Daily Examiner article goes on to quote concerned North Coast residents:
* John Edwards from the Clarence Environment Centre said antimony was "really deadly stuff".
"By the time they get it out the process has released carcenogenic and toxic chemicals.
"The government and council in particular should be pro-active and lobby government on behalf of residents.
"They said they're going to store all the tailings in catchments - this is a high rainfall area (the highest in NSW) - these things don't work."
Mr Edwards referred to the former Timbarra gold mine which used a similar catchments to store its tailings.
"At the end of the day the thing failed.
"A lot of things have happened over the years and we never seem to learn from it."

* Manager of Clarence River Tourism Jenny Massie said any sort of pollution which impacts on waterways could be devastating to the local tourism industry.
Projects such as Clarence Valley Council's Clarence River Way scheme recognised this, she said.
Ms Massie referred to a 2007 Tourism Profiles for Local Government Areas document which estimated that there was anywhere from 3500 to 7700 tourism industry workers in the valley depending on seasonal variations.
She said nature-based tourism was essential to the area considering the region was 56% national parks.

* "What concerns us the most is that China is closing down most of its antimony mining because of its effect on the environment and the human population.
"But then it's okay to come down and put an antimony mine on the Dorrigo Plateau."
Mr Graham slammed comments by Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker who welcomed the potential creation of 60 jobs from an antimony mine.
"The tourism industry down the Clarence River (rafting, fishing and swimming), the southern-most cane growing lands in Australia and the nationally renowned and highly valuable prawn fishery at the mouth of the Clarence River will all be heavily impacted should this mine proceed," he said.

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