After a seven-year battle, the East Gippsland community in eastern Victoria has defeated Kalbar Resources’ proposed mineral sands mine.
The mine, close to the Mitchell River, was planned to extract 170 million tonnes of ore over 20 years.
Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne accepted the independent advisory committee recommendation to refuse the mine because of its significant impact on wildlife, vegetation, air quality, water quality, agriculture and horticulture.
At risk was the vegetable growing industry in the Mitchell Valley and the water supplies it depends on, as well as the drinking water for Bairnsdale and several other towns.
The fight was led by Mine-Free Glenaladale and supported by Environmental Justice Australia, which provided legal advice. The East Gippsland Shire Council had unanimously opposed the mine.
However, Kalbar Resources is not giving up; telling the Bairnsdale Advertiser on December 1 that it is “confident that this project can operate in harmony with the local community, environment and industries, including the horticultural industry”. The spokesperson also said that “Kalbar will push forward with the hope the project may get the tick of approval in the near future”.
Legal opinion is that any appeal has slim prospects.
This is the fourth major win by the East Gippsland community in the last 30 years. The Very Fast Train land acquisition project was defeated after a long fight in the early 1990s. The Sale to Bairnsdale section of the Gippsland rail line was forced to reopen after the Kennett government closed it. Onshore gas drilling was placed in moratorium. Several primary schools were prevented from being closed by the Coalition Jeff Kennett government.
These victories, won in a reliable National Party electorate, show that normally conservative people can be stirred into effective action.
The next fight will be against another mineral sands mine proposal in Sarsfield, Nowa Nowa and Wairewa, unless the proponent, Illuka Resources, gives up in light of the Kalbar mine defeat.
These three communities were severely affected by the December 2019 bushfires and are in no mood to tolerate another attack on their livelihoods and environment.