MEDIA STATEMENT – For Immediate Release – 10 September 2012
Flow of support is changing as mine gets set to re-open
The Walsh River, a life source for hundreds of residents and livestock running all the way to the Gulf, continues to be threatened by toxic contaminants from the Baal Gammon Mine.
Since March of this year, the mine has been issued three Environmental Protection Orders demanding action to clean up the site and minimise the harm. The requirements of these still remain unfulfilled.
In an incredible show of support for the group trying to protect one of the Tablelands’ most loved rivers from mining, over 300 people signed their petition in just one day.
The petition, now with over 1000 signatures, calls for the companies responsible for contaminating the water supply of local residents to be held accountable and to follow the rules.
Many local businesses and families openly supported the mine on commencement. It promised to bring a stronger economy for the local region and new employment possibilities.
Since then, the contamination of their creek and river, their plans for expansion into a heavily occupied part of the valley, and Kagara’s inability to pay local accounts, has many changing their minds.
Noise, dust, water quality (including reports of dead fish), degradation of local roads, and un-paid bills are the most common complaints made.
It is well known that Jamie Creek already contained some level of contamination as a result of historical mining activities. Baal Gammon Copper Pty Ltd told local residents in their permit application that it “would clean up the area”, and “lower the soil contamination associated with historical mining” on the mining lease.
To date, the current mining activities have only increased the concentration and type of contaminants being released.
On March 6, Jamie Creek, which flows into the Walsh River, was confirmed to be contaminated with dangerous levels of arsenic and cadmium, many times higher than the acceptable limits for drinking, swimming, or feeding to livestock. Yet it took 48 hours for residents within a 2km radius to be informed, and those within a 5km radius were never informed that their water was unsafe.
Controversy over the mine is flaming in the small local community of Herberton, where the mine site has sat dormant since it closed back in April of this year due to financial difficulties.
According to their site officer, Baal Gammon Copper Pty Ltd and Kagara Pty Ltd (now in voluntary administration) who caused the contamination, are now planning to re-open the mine.
Additionally, there is a new lease application to extend mining activity further into the valley, a far more heavily populated area, and a whole new stretch of the Walsh River would be at risk of contamination.
In direct response to these events, locals’ support for mining activities near this river system has turned, with a remarkable 81 official objections made to the new lease, up from just 4 objectors when the current mine first announced its intention to open.
On March 6 it was confirmed, “…that contaminant levels of the water seeping into Jamie Creek is consistent with Acid Mine Drainage” by Officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
And at levels “…that are of concern for potential human health, primary industry and ecosystem impacts.” The report stated water samples contained arsenic, cadmium, copper and sulphate at high levels.
Where Jamie Creek enters the Walsh River, is a popular recreational swimming and fishing area, known by locals as “the beach”. It is especially favoured by families because of its great sandy beach and ease of accessibility, which makes playing safe and fun with young children.
No warning was provided to the hundreds of Queenslanders who have swam or fished in the water since the contamination.
Those most likely to be affected by levels of arsenic are going to be young children, the elderly, people with long-term illnesses, and unborn babies.
The companies involved have been ordered to address a number of matters outlined in the Protection Order dated June 14, the majority of which do not have to be completed until November 1, yet the mine is set to re-open any day.
With the news of the mine’s imminent re-opening and expansion, locals are feeling powerless to protect their waterways.
It is a concern for all Tablelanders, Cairns residents, and Far North Queenslanders alike, and the community would appreciate your support.
Donate and help the fight as residents call to be heard in a Land Court of Australia hearing. Help them raise the $6,000 necessary to pay for representation, which has been lost due to recent government funding cuts. www.savethewalsh.org
for more info contact:The Media Adviser
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