The Federal Nationals Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, well-known for his lukewarm support of the social, cultural, environmental and economic aspirations of local communities in his electorate, is now aligning himself with the Chinese multinational mining corporation China Shandong Jinshunda Group and its plans to create an antimony mine in an environmentally sensitive section of the Nymboida River catchment (part of the wider Clarence River catchment) which supplies drinking water to people living in the Coffs Harbour City Council and Clarence Valley Shire Council local government areas.
The Australian 21 September 2011:
PLANS by a Chinese company to start exploration drilling for rare earths and gold on the pristine Dorrigo Plateau in NSW has triggered community fears of contamination of the water catchment for Coffs Harbour and nearby Grafton.
Anchor Resources, 96 per cent-owned by the Shandong Jin Shunda Group, wants to start a $2.6 million drilling program around an old antimony mine at Wild Cattle Creek and a gold prospect at nearby Blicks River.
But many local residents fear the drilling is a precursor to the start of large-scale mining that would threaten the crucial Macleay catchment.
More than 100 concerned residents from Dorrigo and nearby Bellinger Valley attended a community meeting at the weekend to vent their concerns and learn more about the mining proposal.
Dorrigo Environment Watch spokeswoman Gwen Hanna said any full-scale mining operation posed unacceptable pollution risks in an area that lies close to the World Heritage listed Dorrigo National Park, a major tourist attraction.
The habitat of three endangered frogs – the Giant Barred, Stuttering and Pouched – lies within the proposed exploration area, Ms Hanna said.
"This area is in a unique environment and we're really concerned that if they do open cut, which they're proposing in addition to open shaft – it's going to be a really serious blot on the landscape," she said.
In addition to pollution fears, she said residents were worried about the prospect of ore-laden lorries travelling through Dorrigo to what would be the most likely processing facility at Hill Grove, near Armidale.
But local National Party member Luke Hartsuyker, the federal MP for Cowper, said any plans to resume mining on the plateau would create up to 60 jobs in a hard-pressed rural economy.
"This not an Olympic Dam," Mr Hartsuyker said referring to the South Australian mine site containing the world's largest known single deposit of uranium.
Antimony is used in the manufacture of fire retardants, plastics, medical applications and next generation computer memory drives. Demand for the metal is so strong, its price has rocketed from $4000 a tonne in 2006 to $16,000.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke told The Australian he was closely monitoring developments.
"If the company was to propose to mine following exploration, it is more likely federal powers would be triggered at that point," he said.
The Coffs Coast Advocate Letters to the Editor 24 September 2011:
It is immensely concerning that the member for Cowper, Mr Luke Hartsuyker, has publicly stated that the 60 jobs that will potentially be created through the establishment of an antimony mine at Wild Cattle Creek by Anchor Resources and its owner, China Shandong Jinshunda, will be a good thing for our regional economy.
This is because 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.
These major industries underpin the economy of our region.
Furthermore, our three-year-old regional water supply, in which Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley Councils have invested approximately $200 million, faces a great risk because of the toxic antimony, arsenic and mercury known to exist within the ore body that China Shandong Jinshunda seeks to mine.
On March 31, 2009, approximately 900mm of rainfall fell on the mine site.
There is nothing that can be done to capture all run-off in such extreme rainfall events.
It is inevitable that the Clarence River will be polluted should this mine proceed.
At a meeting yesterday at Coffs Harbour City Council chambers, the managing director of Anchor Resources, Mr Ian Price, stated that the lifespan of the mine will be measured in years, not decades.
Please explain your reasoning for supporting this mine on economic grounds, Mr Hartsuyker?
Councillor Mark Graham
What is galling about Mr. Hartsuyker's support for this mining venture is the admitted short life of this mine and the small number of jobs it will create in the Coffs Harbour-Dorrigo area (a possible sixty jobs of less than ten years duration) when set beside the enduring environmental and health dangers it will leave behind for a significant portion of the Clarence River catchment area.
Especially since ongoing antimony contamination of water bodies and land protected by Environmental Planning Instruments is not unknown from previous mining ventures in northern NSW.
HIGHER than average levels of heavy metals have been recorded in the Macleay River at Bellbrook after a dam overflowed at a gold and antimony mine near Armidale.
NSW Health and Kempsey Shire Council said higher than normal levels of metals including arsenic, zinc and copper had been detected in the waters of the Macleay River.
But both organisations said the concentration of the heavy metals was not high enough to warrant concern to people.
As a precaution NSW Health has contacted residents in the upper Macleay to inform them not to drink water from the river unless it has been processed through the Bellbrook water treatment plant.
Council has undertaken further testing to determine whether the contamination has spread beyond Bellbrook….
The Office of Heritage and Environment (OHE) reported the breach occurred on Tuesday when there was a release of material from a sediment erosion control dam at the Hillgrove antimony and gold mine.
"The mine is currently not operating but is in 'care and maintenance' mode," a spokeswoman said.
"The spill occurred after continued wet weather produced excess stormwater which exceeded the amount of water that could be stored in the dam resulting in the spill - when the mine is operating the stormwater would normally have been used for mineral processing."
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Media Release 5 July 2010:
Straits (Hillgrove) Gold Pty Limited has been fined $50,000 and ordered to pay costs of $24,000 in the NSW Land and Environment Court today after being found guilty of polluting waters.
Straits pleaded guilty to the charge; pollution of water under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act.
The company 'Straits' conducts gold and antimony mining activities at the Hillgrove Mine, near Armidale in NSW.
In sentencing today, Justice Biscoe convicted and fined Straits $50,000 and ordered it to pay the prosecutor's legal costs of $24,000.
The court heard that in April 2009 a protective bund at the premises had been lowered to allow access for an electrical contractor. When a screening device used in the mine became blocked and 'slimes' discharged and spilled into the bunded area, it then overflowed the bund and discharged into the local environment.
The spill, of up to 3000 litres of 'slimes,' contained antimony, arsenic and lead and is toxic to some aquatic life.
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), Director General, Lisa Corbyn said the penalty provided a timely reminder to companies that they must ensure measures are in place to contain pollution.
"This case highlights the potential for serious damage to occur and highlights the importance of companies having safeguards and operating procedures in place to control pollution at all times. Carelessness meant that simple containment structures which could have prevented the spill from leaving the mine site were not in place. Fortunately the environmental harm from this particular spill was low.
"Importantly, the company did report the spill to the DECCW Environment Line and cooperated with the DECCW officers throughout the investigation."
Anyone who sees pollution is urged to contact the Environment line on 131 555.
Urunga antimony processing site
A seriously contaminated site has been identified at Urunga, Portions 138 & 169 Parish of Newry. Contamination also affects adjacent Crown Land and a SEPP 14 wetland. The site was previously used for antimony ore processing, since abandoned without rehabilitation of the site. DECCW have undertaken an investigation of the site and researched remediation options.
Council maintains records of properties known to be affected by contamination. Council must consider the requirements of the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 and State Environmental Planning Policy 55 – Remediation of Land in assessing proposed changes to the use of land.
A baseline geochemical study of stream sediments and waters of the Macleay River catchment in northeastern New South Wales indicates that although most of the catchment is unaffected by anthropogenic or natural inputs of heavy metals and metalloids, the Bakers Creek - trunk Macleay-floodplain system has been strongly affected by mining-derived Sb and As. The dispersion train from the Hillgrove Sb - Au mining area to the Pacific Ocean is over 300 km in length. Ore and mineralised altered rock from Hillgrove contains vein, breccia-hosted and disseminated stibnite, arsenopyrite, pyrite and traces of gold. Historic (pre-1970) mine-waste disposal practices have resulted in high to extreme contamination of stream sediments and waters by Sb and As for ∼50 km downstream, with high Au values in the sediments…..
Estimates of sediment migration rates and amounts of Sb and As transported in suspension and solution imply that the catchment contamination will be long-term (centuries to millennia) such that environmental effects need to be ascertained and management strategies implemented…
Dorrigo Environment Watch has online links for further information concerning antimony and the NSW North Coast.