New South Wales
My property is directly downstream from the Dargues Reef gold mine project. My household water has been contaminated five times in the past six months the mine has operated, four times by heavy sediment, the most recent of which left large amounts of sand and gravel behind, and once from possible flocculant pollution.
Unity Mining Ltd has refused my requests during and after each incident to test the creek water on my property or in my water tanks. Neither has the company notified me of the pollution until well after my water tanks and water systems have been filled with sediment and been rendered unusable. This has resulted in loss of time, income, and over $22,000 being spent on new tanks and pumps, as a direct result of the contamination of what was once a pristine stream according to the regular tests we had made of water quality over the preceding decades.
In addition, the following conditions from the NSW Land an Environment Court decision of February 2012 (Application no 10_0054) have not been met. No work should proceed nor modifications be considered until these basic conditions, and those of the EPA, are met.
The numbers below refer to the numbering on the Court's Conditions of Approval.
21. A maximum of 50 milligrams of suspended solids in any discharge of water from sediment collection ponds.
Note: This has not been met at least four times in five months operation.
23. The proponent shall provide a compensatory water supply to any landowner of privately-owned land whose water entitlement is adversely affected. An equivalent water supply must be provided (at last on an interim basis) within 24 hours of the loss or contamination being identified.
If the proponent is unable to provide an alternative long-term supply of water, then the proponent shall provide alternative compensation to the satisfaction of the Director-General.
Note: Downstream residents have repeatedly requested that their water be tested and remediation made, but have had no response. Copies of these requests can be provided.
29b. Establish stream health assessment criteria that include baseline surveys of aquatic life in Majors Creek, upstream and downstream from the confluence of Majors Creek and Araluen Creek prior to the commencement of construction, and annually thereafter until all mining and rehabilitation activities are completed.
Note: This includes a large stretch of creek on my property. The company has refused all requests to survey aquatic species. Given the devastating loss of species in the past three months, a meaningful baseline survey cannot be carried out until the area naturally rehabilitates.
30d. A program to monitor impacts on springs or groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
Note: These include the rock pools downstream from the project where the water appears to seep into them from the Majors Creek fault adjacent to the project site. Although agreement was reached with Mr Matthew Grey, the former Dargues Environmental officer, to test these pools, the company's most recent response has been to say that the EPA has accepted responsibility to do this testing. The EPA has denied that they have made this agreement.
31. Measures to mitigate or compensate potentially affected landowners in accordance with the compensatory water supply requirements in condition 23 above.
Note: We have repeatedly requested that our contaminated water be replaced and potable water provided during the times during which sediment or other substances in the water make it unfit to use as a direct result of the pollution events from the site. It should also be noted that we have diary, witness, water and sediment testing and photographic evidence that these sediment events came from the Dargues Reef site, and from no other entry point between our property and the site.
35. Assessment of the ground water impacts on the Araluen Grassy Scarp Forest. A large part of this forest is on my property. The company has refused all requests to survey the health and viability of the forest here, nor do they appear to have surveyed the areas of the Majors Creek State Conservation Area that are only easily reached through my property but that contain naturally occurring stands of Eucalyptus kartzoffiana. The surveyed forest areas appear to be only those along the roadsides, where the trees have been planted by landowners and Landcare groups and are not naturally occurring.
37. Aboriginal Heritage Plan
Note: The company was informed after the third sediment overflow that downstream sites of major indigenous significance may have been affected. The company refused requests to appoint a suitable archeologist to investigate.
1. Resolve any disputes that may arise during the course of the Project.
Note: The company's response is either to ignore requests, or to refuse to answer complaints using the web site. When an accident occurred during test drilling on our property, with sudden and extreme noise causing my wife's ear drum to burst, the company refused to provide the details of the noise levels requested by medical personnel, nor did they request any details of her injury. They simply marked the case as `investigated' and ` did not happen.' The company has shown a similar disregard for other complaints from the public, dismissing them as unfounded without investigation how they were substantiated.
2. Community Consultative Committee
Despite the orders of the Court, this does not include members of recognised environmental groups, including Coastwatchers, despite requests to the department.
3. Appendix 5.
4.8 Undertake attended noise monitoring at the residences most likely to be affected by noise generated by the project.
Note: Despite an agreement that noise would be monitored, monitoring was not done during test drilling on our property.
7.21 Ensure that all water with the potential to contain processing reagents... is contained within a bounded Contaminated Water Management Area.
Note: The company has failed to do this with the flocculent used after the fourth sediment overflow.
7.5 Ensure that sediment basins have a minimum of .6 metre of freeboard and a spillway that is sized and lined for stability in a 100-year annual recurrence interval (ARI) rain event.
Note: The sediment basins overflow after 31 mm of rain in a 24-hour period, and are far from capable of withstanding the 255 mm in an afternoon received on January 7, 2010.
Ensure that surface water flows are directed away from disturbed areas.
Note: The company has demonstrably failed to do this four times within a five-month period.
14.2. Direct the company to proactively and regularly consult with those residents most likely to be affected by the Project, particularly those in the Majors Creek and Araluen communities.
Note: The company has refused to discuss financial or other impacts with residents downstream from the mine site.
Surface water monitoring.
15.12. The Court directed that monthly surface water monitoring be taken `... at a range of locations downstream of the Majors Creek State Conservation Area.'
Note: The only site in Araluen that has been tested for sediment is one where the majority of flow is from other streams between that site and the Project. Despite requests, no sampling has been done on the approximately one kilometre stretch of creek on my property. (As the creek is not a straight line, it's length exceeds the length of my property). Mr Matthew Grey was negotiating to access the major's Creek Conservation Area through our property, as this is the only easy access. Since his abrupt departure, the company stated that no further sampling is necessary, and have refused to discuss the matter further.
The company only takes samples where the water is considerably diluted. The areas where the sediment pollution, and possibly other pollution, gathers are the deep pools on my property and in the Conservation Area. The company refuses to sample these pools, instead sampling only in areas where polluted water will either quickly pass, or is greatly diluted downstream.
I am increasingly concerned that the company repeatedly refuses to view or take samples when there is sufficient reason to believe that pollution and damage have occurred ie when the EPA have directed that a sediment overflow has occurred, and when their water sampling indicates that the pollution originated at the Project site.
The company has taken no responsibility to either test the impact of their spills, or even the view the results, nor will they reply to requests to discuss remediation.
I am also concerned that investigation of complaints is left to the company, with no independent assessment. I request that independent assessment of complaints is made a condition of any future approvals.
I further request that no modifications be approved until the company demonstrably meets the initial conditions of approval, and the EPA directives, as well as assessing and if necessary remediating the effects downstream of the four sediment episodes.
I also request that measures be put in place to enforce the initial conditions of approval, and measures to ensure a representative water sampling regime.