Rain over the weekend washed excavation sediments from the Dargues Gold Mine site down Spring Creek and into Majors Creek, which runs into the Araluen Valley. Work had only just started on the roadworks and preliminary earthworks for the development of the mine.
On Friday 20.1mm of rain was recorded, 49.5mm on Saturday and 22.8mm on Sunday, although it was very patchy across the district.
Residents became concerned at the extent of the washout and the 24 hour hotline was not answering.
Robyn Clubb Media spokesperson for the Araluen Valley Agricultural Producers and Protectors of the Ecosystem Coalition (AVAPECC) said “It is extraordinary that the Mine is not required to immediately stop work when something as major as this happens, and the Project design is proved to be inadequate even for a rainfall event that occurs quite often in this area. A few months ago this area received many times more rainfall within a day.”
“The sediment plume can be traced along Major's Creek, through the Major's Creek Conservation area, habitat of many endangered and critically endangered species, including eastern quolls, brush tailed rock wallabies, green and gold bell frogs, giant burrowing frog and many others. The sediment is still apparent more than 8km below the site” says AVAPPEC.
A Spokesman for Unity Mining Ian Howarth said “the sediment trapping dam got swamped by the rain and the water came right over the top of it. The dam is still intact and operating as it’s designed to, but the earthworks have increased the amount of runoff.”
Mr Howarth said the dam was compliant and that (its design) “is an issue for the regulator.”
“Although it doesn’t fall under terms of reportable incidents, Unity have gone to the EPA and reported it and he’s onsite this afternoon (Monday)” said Mr Howarth. “Gypsum has been put into the water to act as a flocculant.”
Mr Howarth added “there’s no requirement on the company to have zero discharge from that site.”
“It won’t be an issue in a few weeks, as once the box cut is progressed, most of the runoff water will fall into the boxcut and will be treated from there. It will be caught in sumps and passed back though settling ponds.”
Interview by ABC 666 yesterday Unity CEO Andrew McIlwain said “it was a significant rain event and in three days we had in excess of the 200 year rainfall for the month.”
“It was an unfortunate circumstance was that we had a significant area of land with the topsoil disturbed and it washed down. On Sunday every hand was onsite” he added.
Mr McIlwain said if people had left messages on the 24 hour hotline then they would have been called back. The phone was left in car for a few hours, but other people on site were available.”
Mr McIlwain assured that it “Won’t happen again. The phone now has a default and it will ultimately call me.”