Goldmine threatens Timbarra wetland

June 17, 1998

On June 5, Ross Mining Co. began preparations for the construction of its goldmine at Poverty Point on the Timbarra Plateau, near Tenterfield in northern NSW.

The mine site covers 400 hectares and is located within the headwaters of the Timbarra River catchment. The high altitude wetland is free from introduced predators and includes 27 vulnerable fauna species, 10 forest types and many rare flora species.

Timbarra was promised for gazettal as Demon National Park by Pam Allan, NSW minister for the environment, in November 1995. Simultaneously, the state government assured Ross Mining that the proposed park would not impede exploration or mining. The government then moved park boundaries to allow mining of the area's heart and reduce the park to a 900-hectare nature reserve.

Ross Mining plans to use 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide, 60 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 75 tonnes of caustic soda annually in the gold extraction process. It intends to build a 25 metre by 29 hectare cyanide heap leach pad, only contained by thick plastic sheeting. It also plans to pump up to 2.5 million litres of water per day from the Timbarra River, which would significantly affect aquatic habitats and downstream water users.

The Environment Protection Authority admits that heap leach pads tend to leak cyanide. In this case, it would result in contamination of the water courses leading to the Timbarra River.

Those most adversely affected will be the native title claimants, the Malera people. Malera-Bandjalang states, "To mine Malera is to totally kill our spirit ... We have lost enough without losing any more, especially our dreaming and sacred sites."

Experts, government agencies, community and industry groups have all expressed strong concerns about the proposal. Despite this, under pressure from the company and the department of mineral resources, environmental approvals have been fast tracked.

Before construction of the mine road begins, the company must spend a week trapping endangered species for relocation. It is catching around 1800 animals a day, but as neither the National Parks and Wildlife Service nor the native title claimants can get access to the site, it is feared that a mass extinction is taking place.

For more information contact Jamie Harris on (02) 6620 3044 or visit <>.

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