Dargues gold mine near Majors Creek going ahead
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Dargues gold mine near Majors Creek going ahead

Construction work to resume the Dargues gold mine near Majors Creek is expected to begin in the next few months.

Plans were halted last year amid concerns about the use of cyanide, but modified environmental approval was granted in August after then owner Big Island Mining agreed to process concentrate off site.

Dargues gold mine at Majors Creek.

Dargues gold mine at Majors Creek.Credit:Rohan Thomson

The proposed underground mine is 13km south of Braidwood and historical activity dates back to the 1850s.

Approval was first granted in 2011 to extract and process up to 355,000 tonnes of ore per year. The approval was later appealed and modified.

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In 2014, Big Island Mining was fined $196,000 after pleading guilty in the Land and Environment Court to polluting Spring and Majors Creeks in the first two weeks of work in 2013.

Majors Creek provides a water supply for rural properties and flows into Araluen Creek, which is a tributary of the Deua River.

The new owner is Diversified Minerals, a private associated company of the Orange-based Pybar Group.

Project development manager James Dornan told Fairfax Media that construction would resume in the first half of this year.

Mr Dornan said there were currently five people employed at the mine and this number would increase to 120 during construction and remain at 100 when operating later this year.

He said workers would be recruited locally and live in the area where possible.

"Many opportunities exist for local suppliers at the Dargues gold mine," he said.

"The mine currently engages approximately 20 local suppliers and services. This number is expected to increase significantly once the mine recommences."

Most nearby residents objected to the development when it was advertised in 2015 for comment.

In response to water quality concerns the former owner proposed installing new sediment basins to capture run-off.

The modified approval requires auditing by a "suitably qualified and experienced independent expert".

Local wildlife carer and wombat enthusiast Bill Waterhouse said he was "reasonably satisfied" that native fauna would be protected.

Mr Waterhouse estimated there could be more than 20 wombats that will need to be relocated away from the tailings facility and dam.

"Wombats all have multiple burrows, they live in an area," he said.

"What's happening is a handful of acres will be removed from their area, but they will still have hundreds of acres left.

"Unless something untoward happens, I consider myself relatively happy with that process."

Mr Waterhouse said the mine had a community consultative committee and the operators were "doing their best to meet their obligations".

"I can't say I'm thrilled to bits having this mine here and many people are skeptical," he said.

"They don't want the place destroyed, but they also recognise there are many benefits in having a little industry there and it will bring some good to the community.

"As far as wildlife are concerned, I get the impression the new owners want to do the right thing."

Michael Gorey is a reporter at The Canberra Times

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