Monday, 19 December 2011

Another perspective on Anchor Resources' antimony mining proposal

The 101 year-old Don Dorrigo Gazette ran this letter to the editor by Jacqueline Williams on its front page in December 2011:

Mining in Dorrigo: another perspective

The article appearing in the Don Dorrigo Gazette 16/11/2011 under the heading ‘Mining in Dorrigo’ presents information that appears to be directly from an Anchor Resources brochure on the Bielsdown Project.  It would seem appropriate to question and challenge this article and highlight perhaps what we the community haven’t been told.

Anchor Resources is one of three companies holding mineral exploration licences on the Plateau and is currently the most active. Anchor Resources activities include drilling for gold at Dundurrabin, proposed drilling for antimony/gold at Wongwibinda (Fishington Mine) and further drilling at Bielsdown. This flurry of activity in our region reflects the rising price of antimony, gold and other metals and I question whether this is due to resource scarcity or market manipulation? China produces 90% of the worlds antimony, and we have seen the price of antimony skyrocket from $4K per tonne to $16K per tonne in the last two years.  This price increase has largely been associated with the closure of a number of large producing antimony mines in China due to human health/safety and environmental concerns. It is pertinent to add here that Anchor Resources is now at least 96% owned by the Chinese company Shandong Jinshunda Group as of mid 2011.

I note that Anchor Resources refer to the exploration licence process, however it is difficult to find the latest approval for their Bielsdown project with the Government gazette showing an application to renew the licence in February 2011, however this licence doesn’t appear to be granted as yet. Also of concern is that a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) has not been undertaken for any of the exploration licence applications submitted by Anchor for the Bielsdown project since 2007.  My understanding is that a REF is a requirement of all exploration licence applicants to undertake an environmental impact assessment of the proposed activities so that NSW DPI can make an assessment under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 prior to granting the licence. Given that the Bielsdown project location has state and national significance as habitat for threatened species I question the currency of the exploration licence and how the NSW government has overlooked an important part of the approval process. This is not to mention the requirements under the Commonwealth legislation that the location triggers. It is unclear whether Anchor Resources have notified the Commonwealth government to determine if their exploration activities are considered a ‘controlled action’ under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 requiring further environmental impact assessment and approval. Many farmers have shared with me their frustration about their efforts and sacrifices in conserving native vegetation and habitat for the public good only to see mining companies given open slather.

I don’t wish to dwell solely on the environmental issues surrounding the potential of mining on the Plateau, as there are other issues that need to be considered. It seems that Dorrigo is not immune to the unprecedented mining expansion in regional Australia where the potential social and economic impacts need to be considered by the communities faced with these challenges. As the current legislation has been identified as inadequate to accommodate the risks, new policies are being developed and proposals to change legislation under debate. In the meantime, mining activities continue to expand.  In considering the full impacts of mining, the concerns of landholders and rural communities should not be dismissed as simply ‘alarmist’.....

Read the full letter here.

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