A community alliance has been formed to oppose antimony mining on the Dorrigo Plateau.
The group is working to stop the reopening of the old Wild Cattle Creek near Bielsdown.
The alliance says the Anchor Resources plan could lead to pollution in the headwaters of the Nymboida River which feeds the Coffs-Clarence public water supply.
Coffs councillor Mark Graham says recent stormwater overflows from the old Hillgrove mine on the plateau highlight concerns.
"These are essentially pristine headwaters areas, which provide drinking and good clean water important for many of the industries in our region," he said.
"We've seen in our Macleay River, major contamination because of the mining at Hillgrove.
"We need to learn lessons from that and avoid making these mistakes again."
Cr Graham says the community is determined to be heard.
"The determining authority for mining application is state and in some instances the Commonwealth Government," he said.
"Community groups have aligned and formed together in an alliance to oppose mining on the Dorrigo Plateau."
Chinese-owned Anchor Resources holds a licence to explore the Bielsdown site, but no approval has been issued for mining.
Groups including Dorrigo Environment Watch, Antimony Action, NSW Greens and North Coast Voices fear that any mining activity in the high-rainfall area could lead to contamination of the Clarence/Coffs Harbour water supply.
"The effects of antimony poisoning are similar to arsenic poisoning," a Greens statement on the issue said. "In small doses, antimony causes headaches, dizziness and depression.
"Larger doses damage the kidneys and the liver, causing violent and frequent vomiting and will lead to death within a few days; otherwise skin contact causes dermatitis."
The ABC's 7.30 Report covered the story about prior Hillgrove spills, their impact and the Wild Cattle Creek plans in October.
There has been another heavy metal spill into the Macleay River from a gold and antimony mine in the upper catchment.
Heavy rain over the weekend caused an overflow from a stormwater dam at the Hillgrove mine near Armidale.
The Kempsey council's infrastructure manager, Robert Scott, says the contamination sounds worse than it actually is.
He says the rain caused the spill but it also helped dilute it.
"At the moment the dams in the Hillgrove mine, because they've received around about 290mm of rainfall for the month of November alone, are full, they are discharging," he said.
"We are seeing a massive dilution factor as a result of the overall flow that's coming off the New England Tablelands at the moment, which has resulted in relatively low levels of discharge directly from the mine."
However, conservationists are worried about the latest spill into the Upper Macleay.
Coffs Harbour Greens' councillor Mark Graham says the spill in the region's drinking water catchment should be grounds for concern.
"I think that all the evidence is that the river is contaminated by mining practices and it's not just the historic mining practices," he said.
"The owners of the Hillgrove mine, Straits Mining, were recently fined $50,000 in the Land and Environment Court for ongoing contamination to the headwaters of the Macleay.
"These mines are creating ongoing contamination for the catchment.
The bumper stickers are available from Kombu Wholefoods in Bellingen, The Happy Frog in Coffs Harbour, The Clarence Environment Centre in South Grafton, Sawtell Paradise Fruit, The Sawtell Newsagency, Hickory Wholefoods in Dorrigo, Dorrigo Environment Watch Inc., Antimony Action and local NSW Greens groups.
Just to remind our elected representatives in all three tiers of government that mercury and arsenic have consequences, here is a media report from New Zealand this month as one small community struggles with the reality of soil contamination from arsenic laden mine tailings dumped during the last century:
The Ministry of Health advises Moanataiari residents to:
- Take care with personal hygiene (i.e. hand washing after handling soil);
- Make sure children don't eat or play in soil;
- Remove footwear before going indoors to avoid carrying soil dust indoors - particularly for households with very young children;
- Cover soil (e.g. grassing, paving, gravel) to reduce dust and direct access by young children;
- Not to eat home grown fruit and vegetables, especially young children, until further quantification of the contamination is available and the risk can be assessed, unless it is known that the garden soil is clean fill. If you choose to eat home grown fruit and vegetables, then thoroughly wash produce that may be contaminated with soil, and peel the skin off root vegetables;
- Don't be concerned about the drinking water supply, it is separate (and safe);
- As always, if unwell for any reason, see your doctor.
Labels: Clarence River, environment, mining, NSW Government, Nymboida River, pollution, regional economies, safety, water policy, water policy politics