Central Deborah Gold Mine CEO Ian Hart says the tourist draw card would close and cost Bendigo millions of dollars every year if rising groundwater is not addressed.
“If the mine was inundated and underground tours were lost, we would lose 70 to 75 per cent of our business – we’d be left with a few surface relics with very little tourism appeal,” Mr Hart said.
“We’d lose somewhere close to $1 million dollars, or almost all of our revenue, and effectively become non-viable.
“Our business would be destroyed.”
That is a scenario facing Central Deborah as groundwater – laced with hydrogen sulphide, arsenic, dissolved salts and other metals – rises beneath Bendigo and threatens to spill into its waterways.
The threat of rising groundwater became a problem for the city once again when Unity Mining closed its Kangaroo Flat mine in 2011 and ceased pumping water from the extensive network of mines beneath the city.
But Mr Hart said that future scenario would not only impact the tourist mine, but have knock-on impacts upon the city’s economy.
He said a state-government commissioned report from last year found the reputational damage to Bendigo would cost the city more than $6 million annually in gross state product.
That figure was a mid-range estimation with the lowest projected costs estimated at $3.5 million and the highest $9.5 million.
“If the mine flooded the water then flows into the Bendigo waterways and what impact does that have on local business, on tourism, when you have the odour of that water going downstream?” he said.
“Not to mention the final users in the agriculture downstream… then you have a 35 per cent drop in tram visitors...”
Mr Hart said he strongly supported the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s proposal, known as the ‘Coliban Option,’ to pump groundwater to the Epsom Water Reclamation Plant.
“That is a good option in the short- to medium-term… but the issue remains, what happens in the long-term?”