A plan to recover residual gold from mine tailings near the Bendigo creek in Huntly has been given conditional approval by the state’s mining regulator.
Earth Resources Regulation granted a mining licence to Eaglehawk-based company Twenty-Seventh Yeneb Pty Ltd for the 110 hectare site, however an environmental assessment of the work plan must be approved by ERR and other related agencies before works begin.
Twenty-Seventh Yeneb director David Wright said in principle, three million tonnes of tailings would be removed from a reserve adjoining the creek and processed for gold.
Tailings are the ore waste of historic mines and a number of tailing sites exist across the region due to its mining history.
Mr Wright said the site, located west of Huntly near Leans Road, was around four kilometres long and 300 metres wide, and had been used for grazing until 2016.
He said removing tailings from near the creek would “vastly minimise” the flood risk for Huntly and surrounding areas, and once mined, the area could be turned into wetlands or an extension of the neighbouring Greater Bendigo National Park.
Excess tailings – a mud like material – could be deposited elsewhere along the creek or sold as sand or soil to local building companies, he said.
The company planned to extract any mercury found in the material, Mr Wright said.
It could take more than 18 months for works to begin, given the number of agencies that will be involved in a project which will also require community consultation, according to Mr Wright, who said it would take three years to mine the material.
An environmental group was concerned the mining licence had been approved before a work plan had been assessed.
Bendigo and District Environmental Council mining spokesperson Simon Perrin said the idea, in principle, would be damaging for the creek, suggesting mine tailings contained toxic materials.
“Your essentially mobilising toxic material that shouldn't be disturbed unless your separating those out and treating them as well,” he said.
“There will be a significant impact on the vegetation out there.”
A spokesperson for ERR said: “Before any activity can commence, a detailed work plan will need to be submitted for environmental assessment by Earth Resources Regulation and other agencies including Parks Victoria, Goulburn Murray Water, EPA and the City of Greater Bendigo.”