Cox sacking decision labelled a "farce"

UPDATE 3.15PM: PETER Cox will meet with Victorian Minister for Energy Resources Nick Kotsiras on Thursday to determine his future on a Bendigo mining committee.

Mr Kotsiras said he was still getting all sides of the decision to axe Councillor Cox as chairman of the Kangaroo Flat Mine Environmental Review Committee.

He said he would not provide a running commentary on the decision process of the Department of Business Development and Innovation, but he said he was hopeful the issues would be resolved by the end of the week.

"If something is to be dealt with then I will deal with it," he said.

"I would rather not comment on the report (from the department). I'll speak to Councillor Cox and hopefully meet with Unity Mining in Bendigo and then I will have more to say."

A member of the Kangaroo Flat Mine Environmental Review Committee described the sacking of Cr Cox as a “farce”.

Peter Foreman – who acts as a community representative on the 14-person committee – said the Department of Business Development and Innovation made the wrong decision in axing Cr Cox before Tuesday’s meeting.

“My view is that it was certainly handled in a most unprofessional way,” he said.

“It was farcical. It would make a very good plot for a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.”

Mr Foreman said in his 10 years on the committee that advises Unity Mining’s Kangaroo Flat operations he had never seen such drama.

“I think the department concerned made a mistake and succumbed to some brow-beating,” he said.

“I suspect there’s a hidden agenda to ensure there’s no opposition to the mine here.” 

Victorian Minister for Energy Resources Nick Kotsiras has demanded a full report into the sacking.

Unity Mining said they would not comment on the decision. 

Cr Cox said the department terminated him because of comments he made at a November council meeting in relation to the planning application for the Augusta mine at Costerfield.

"The department has removed me as chair for that committee because the CEO of Unity Mining didn't like comments I made in relation to that planning application," Cr Cox said.

"Because I spoke out (about Costerfield) at council, they are inferring that I am speaking out against all mining projects."

Cr Cox said he met with Unity Mining and the department before Christmas to reach a resolution but one could not be agreed upon.

"I put my point of view about planning at a public council as part of a democratic process to justify my supporting or voting on particular motion. Apparently that was not acceptable to Unity," he said.

"The department said all parties must be happy with chair of environmental review committee and as Unity are not happy with my position, I have been told I have to vacate."

Cr Cox said he was appalled at the process of his removal.

Cr Cox said he was listed as chairman on an agenda for a meeting on Tuesday but was told 20 minutes prior to the start of the meeting he wouldn't be chairing it.

He said he had several issues he wanted to raise with the minister.

"Particularly around process, that would be number one," Cr Cox said.

"Number two would be who controls the committee; is it the government or is it the mining company?

"I'd also like to rightly just discuss the role of the committee and my role as chairman on it.

"I've just used my democratic right as an elected councillor."

Comment is being sought from the Department of Business Development and Innovation.

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