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OPERATORS of Bendigo's historic tourist attraction - the Central Deborah Gold Mine and Bendigo Tramways, have welcomed today's confirmation of a $52 million investment to resolve the city's rising groundwater issues.
Bendigo Heritage Attractions CEO James Reade said the announcement was significant not only for Central Deborah Gold Mine but the wider Bendigo community.
"Groundwater is a complex and challenging issue that is a legacy of over 100 years of mining in Bendigo. It is an issue that not only affects Central Deborah Gold Mine but the whole liveability of Bendigo.
"Central Deborah Gold Mine has been a key stakeholder working with a range of government agencies to work towards a long-term management plan of groundwater."
Mr Reade said today's announcement secures the future of the Central Deborah Gold Mine as one of Bendigo's key tourism and heritage attractions.
"It allows us to plan for our future and focus on improving our visitor experience. Bendigo Heritage Attractions looks forward to continuing to work with the Victorian government to deliver this important project," he said.
THE state government will provide $52 million towards delivering a long term solution to Bendigo's potentially devastating rising groundwater issue.
The funding is expected to be confirmed in today's state budget, and the government says it is supporting tourism at Central Deborah Gold Mine and protecting the natural environment of Bendigo Creek, with its investment to combat mine-affected groundwater under Bendigo.
Bendigo's groundwater has long been affected by historical mining operations. A legacy of Bendigo's golden past, the rising groundwater has been problematic for both the state government and the City of Greater Bendigo since about 2011 when Unity Mining closed its Kangaroo Flat mine and ceased pumping water from the extensive network of mines beneath the city.
The toxic groundwater is the source of the "rotten egg" smell often permeating from Bendigo Creek.
The state government says the funding delivers a plan to stop mining-affected groundwater discharging to the surface - which would cause environmental harm to Bendigo Creek and the odour impacts on Bendigo's tourism and central business precinct.
As part of the $52 million package of works, a new purpose-built treatment facility will be established, together with an associated pumping station and pipelines.
Existing interim infrastructure will then be decommissioned, and materials and personnel access at the Central Deborah Gold Mine would also be upgraded as part of the plan.
The government it will extend interim management arrangements of Bendigo's groundwater, until the new facility is built.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the $52 million investment would secure jobs and the future of the much-loved Central Deborah Gold Mine - as well as protecting Bendigo Creek for decades to come.
"We couldn't let this problem go on without a solution - this strategy and the new treatment facility will save jobs."
Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards said the funding would help address a difficult issue for Bendigo.
"These aren't easy problems to fix but it's crucial we protect the natural environment and our tourism industry - that's what this funding does."
In 2017, a $29 million treatment plant was built at the New Moon mining site, north of Eaglehawk, with groundwater pumped to the facility.
Arsenic and other contaminants from the groundwater were then removed before the water was pumped to a reclamation plant at Epsom, where it is mixed with recycled water and pumped back into Bendigo Creek.
Contaminants were stored on-site and trucked to a Melbourne landfill.
Some of the city's most prominent tourist attractions risked being wiped out if the groundwater issue was not satisfactorily addressed, including Bendigo Heritage Attractions.
In 2016, former CEO Ian Hart said the tourist draw card would close and cost Bendigo millions of dollars every year if rising groundwater is not sorted.
"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."
Bendigo also stood to lose out in its desire to be viewed as Australia's most livable city should the groundwater problem not be resolved, with independent reports putting the reputational damage to the city at more than $6 million in gross state product, and as high as $9.5 million.
More detail on the $52 million package is expected to be revealed by Treasurer Tim Pallas in today's state budget.
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