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Stawell Gold Mine - Big Hill Mining Proposal

Arsenic From Mining Waste Poses Long Term Health Threats

April 19 2015: Crocodile Gold Hopes Revised Plans for Opencut Mine in Stawell will be Approved

March 26 2015: Miner Told to Prove Stawell Open Cut Mine Plan Safe

March 25 2015: Stawell Mine Opponents to Meet Resources Minister

October 30 2014: Big Hill Mine Risk Determined to be Unacceptable

Some houses less than 50 metres, 34 houses less than 100 metres from proposed pit edge.

Luxor Group also has interests in the highly controversial Phulbari Coal Project in Bangladesh

"After fierce resistance by the local population halted plans for the project in 2007, a 2010 WikiLeaks cable revealed US diplomats were secretly pushing the Bangladeshi government to re-open plans for the mine since “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent U.S. investment.”

Map of Stawell showing where mine will be located and proximity to houses

September 2014: Stawell Protesters Outside Parliament House in Melbourne

September 3 2014: Stawell Residents Fight Big Hill Open Cut Mine Proposal During March Australia Rally

September 2 2014: Community Forum in Stawell to Discuss Proposed Big Hill Mine Project

July 25 2014: Battle Over Gold Mine Proposal

July 14 2014: Extra Day for Stawell Gold Mine Hearings

May 16 2014: Council's Position on Big Hill Unchanged

June 28 2013: Gold Falls Below US$1200 to 34 Month Low on US Data

May 16 2013: Investors Rush Out of Gold

June 2013: Crocodile Gold Share Price Falls 91.5% ( January 2010 - June 28 2013)

April 24 2013: Stawell Gold Mines Must Complete EES Planning Minister

April 22 2013: Friends of Big Hill Air Mine Concerns

April 17 2013: Gold Exodus Rattles Market

Environmental Effects Statement Here

Stawell: The Big Hill - Protected largely due to work by The Big Hill Action Group in the 1990's - Future Now Uncertain - Decisions being made about its future in Zurich and New York.

April 16 2013: Gold Crash Heralds Return Of King Dollar

April 16 2013: Panic Selling Gold Rout Gathers Steam

February 25 2013: Battle Of Big Hill Is Mining Stawell's Depth Of Emotion

Who Are Crocodile Gold?

Who Are Credit Suisse?

Canadian Crocodile Gold received a loan of $75 million AUD from Credit Suisse International for the purporses of acquiring the Stawell and Fosterville mines. The loan was signed on 12 June 2012. Shareholders of Crocodile Gold include: Luxor Capital Group (61.4% of shares), followed by Resolute Funds LTD (7%), Centauraus Capital (6.2%), MM Asset Management (4.7%), Acuity Investments (4.1%), Libra Advisors (4%), Van Eck Associates (3.7%), Royal Bank of Canada (3%), PI Financial Corp (1%). Share price has fallen by nearly half in the past year, so while they were worth about CAD$250 million a year ago, they're now worth AUD$125 million.

Feb 16 2012: Luxor Capital Group Issues Open Letter To Shareholders Of Crocodile Gold

GOLD SWAP AGREEMENT FAQ (UPDATED DECEMBER 12, 2012) 1. What are the “derivative liabilities” that contributed to Crocodile Gold’s reported loss in the third quarter, ended September 30, 2012? “Derivative liabilities” refers to the Gold Swap Agreement that Crocodile Gold entered into with Credit Suisse to purchase the Fosterville and Stawell assets. The Company borrowed $75 million from Credit Suisse in the form of a pre-paid gold facility. In connection with the facility, the Company also entered into 45 monthly gold swap contracts for 8,000 ounces of gold at A$1,540, which effectively covers interests and fees on the facility. The company concurrently entered into call options for 4,000 ounces at $2,100 to ensure that if the price of gold goes over $2,100 Crocodile gets to participate in a rising gold price environment. 2. How does the gold swap agreement work? Each month, Crocodile Gold will settle a tranche of the gold swap contracts (8,000 ounces) based on the difference between the month-end market price of gold and $1,540. This benefit to Credit Suisse effectively covers the cost of funding and fees for the facility. Alternatively, if the price of gold were to fall below $1,540, Credit Suisse would be required to pay Crocodile Gold the difference. For example: If the March 2013 spot price for gold is $1,795, Crocodile Gold would be required to pay Credit Suisse $2,040,000 (8,000 oz x ($1,795 - $1,540)) If the April 2013 spot price for gold dropped to $1,600, Crocodile Gold would pay Credit Suisse only $480,000 (8,000 oz x ($1,600 - $1,540)) Source: Crocodile Gold

Mail Times February 18 2013

People deserve priority Feb. 18, 2013

"A copy of former Planning Minister John Thwaites' assessment of the Big Hill proposal and his decision to not allow the open pit mining of Big Hill dated November 6, 2000 should be compulsory reading for Northern Grampians Shire Council, for the press and for all interested residents of Stawell.

It should be printed in all local papers.

He was a minister in the Bracks Labor government, which had defeated the Kennett government in October, 1999, which occurred just before the panel hearing in January 2000. We would not have saved Stawell if the Kennett government had won the election because they did not take any notice of panel recommendations.

The Labor government might have allowed it but we got hold of a written promise they made before the election that they would not overturn panel decisions.

This letter from the minister sets out very clearly why you could not do such a terrible thing to a small town and it is tragic that Northern Grampians council voted on this issue without bothering to find out what happened last time.

How can this happen again in a developed nation which prides itself on its freedoms and respect for people's property rights?

How can community leaders look in the mirror and say they are looking after their people?

Last time, when we had an environmental effects statement process that lasted almost two years, there was so much damage to the community people were socially isolated, they feared that they would not be able to stay and would lose their homes.

Families were divided, friends crossed the street to avoid conversation and a number of people became sad and depressed.

Residents in Fisher Street could not move because they could not sell their houses, unlike those in Upper Main Street, where it was all done very privately and the public was not to find out that the mine had bought several houses which would have had to be demolished.

These deals were organised before the open pit was granted.

All this and more happened and we were only in the planning stage.

Graeme and I, together with Wendy and Jim Melbourne, went to a beautiful town in New Zealand called Waihi.

The manager of Stawell Gold Mines had been the manager of their mine when they were given permission to open a pit mine in the town.

That was the saddest three days of my life.

They had this huge pit, they had lost 200 houses and part of their gardens, and Main Street had fallen into old mine diggings.

The people had given up and were exhausted by the fight, but they had one thing Stawell does not have a pleasant beach town just a few kilometres down the road.

The older residents were devastated by what had happened to their lovely town.

If this is rushed through then how will you know that all the checks and balances are in place to protect the community's health, welfare, ambience and financial and property stability?

Don't believe that they will rehabilitate Big Hill and fill the voids because you can search the world and you will not find a mining void which has been fully restored.

My research shows that it costs about twice as much per truckload to bring fill in as it took to take the rock out.

Think about the mess they always leave.

Why would they stay around when the gold is finished?

They never have in the past and you just have to look at the front of Big Hill when they did drilling in 1997-98. Ask the old Apexians how they felt when all their hard work was bulldozed.

I find it hard to believe that this could be happening and I am sad that people who were so damaged last time are phoning me and are miserable because they had only just got their lives back .

Please show me that for country towns, people are more important than dollars, that your leaders will not sell you out for a handful of brief and damaging jobs."

Barbara Bennett Banksia Beach, Queensland, formerly of Stawell


See Peacebus.com/BigHill/ for detailed history about campaign to save Big Hill from mining in the late 1990's

December 11 1998, Over 500 people attend The Big Hill Light Up in protest about plans to mine The Big Hill. More information here: Peacebus.com/BigHill/

Owned by Crocodile Gold

February 22 2013: Noise, Dust, Pollution Concerns Aired At Big Hill

February 22 2013: Stawell's Big Decision

February 8 2013: Shire Backs Pit Proposal

February 8 2013: Team Examines Big Hill Effects

Feb 6 2013: Northern Grampians Council Backs Big Hill Mine Proposal

February 5 2013: Council Backs Big Hill Gold Mine Plans

February 1 2013: Stawell's Big Hill Mine On Agenda

January 29 2013: Mine Is Seeking Council Support

January 29 2013: Councillors To Learn More About Mine Plans

January 28 2013: Fresh Moves To Mine Stawells Big Hill

January 25 2013: Big Hill Back On Mines Agenda

December 6 2012: Plan To Save Stawell Gold Mine Jobs

November 13 2012: Gold Mine Continues Exploration

July 16 2012: A Golden Town Loses Its Lustre

May 23 2012: New Owner May Shut Stawell Goldmine In 2014

November 6 2000: Big Hill Open Cut Not Approved: Thwaites

Big Hill Goverment's dilemna August 11, 2000 Big Hill Action Group

History of Events leading up to the EES 'October 1998

Have you heard the one about Stawell Gold Mine? Friends of the Earth

New mines proposals under fire

Community opposition stops Big Hill opencut Gold Mine in 2000

The Big Hill - left of centre (What the mining companies wanted to mine).

Big Hill Goverment's dilemna August 11, 2000

The Problem: Stawell Gold Mines (SGM) has proposed to open-cut mine Big Hill, within 50 metres of residences and 150 metres of schools.

If this proposal is accepted, it will set a precedent for Victoria and Australia. Victoria has no effective mining buffer zone and EPA guidelines are ignored for mining.

Other states have buffer zones - New South Wales is 200 metres and South Australia and Western Australia, our largest gold producer 400 metres.

Victorian Government control of gold mining is deeply flawed. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) is responsible for promoting mining, regulating it and looking after the environment - a hopeless example of conflict of interest and ripe for political manoeuvering and corruption. Dracula is in charge of the blood bank.

It is not surprising that miners rule the roost. Our Health Department is run by DNRE, whose Minerals and Petroleum staff condone the breaking of rules and regulations. For example, mine 'Work Plans' drawn up by DNRE are altered without due process, as in Fosterville's (Bendigo) recent case.

Present Status: The Kennett Government's Minister for Planning, Rob McLellan, agreed to SGM's request for an Environmental Effects Statement (EES), to be prepared to justify approval for the destruction of Big Hill.

This process is flawed, since the mine selects and pays the consultants whose objectiveness is thus compromised and objectors and seekers of truth have to provide their own consultants to argue their case.

For Stawell, the EES process was further compromised by a letter from the ex-Deputy Premier McNamara stating "I have noted your concern, however, I do not intend to put a stop to the proposed open cut mining at Stawell."

From other EES cases it was clear that the Panel recommendations could be ignored.

The Big Hill EES Panel findings are currently with Planning Minister, John Thwaites, who will make a report and recommendation to the Energy and Resources Minister, Candy Broad, who will decide Stawell's fate.

The issues for Stawell

Economics: SGM have claimed to locals that approval of the pit will prolong the life of the mine for years to come. As at January 1 they had 'proven and probable reserves' of 420,000 ozs or four and half years supply - the rest is speculation on underground resources.

The pit will yield approximatley 160,000 ozs or less than two years supply out of the total and at a peak will add 17 people to the workforce.

The underground reserves have not been profitable at current prices, so it is possible that SGM could close the mine after completing the Big Hill pit.

Health: The inhalation of dust particles less than 10 microns (PM10) is known to increase death and asthma attacks. With the pit close to residents and schools this dust is a major concern.

The mine consultants made light of the risks, but their Air Quality Assessment Report was judged by CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, to be of low reliability and relevance in the areas of estimated emissions and time series background levels of PM10.

The Health Impact Assessment Report 'does not usefully contribute to the debate as it fails to adequately address a wide range of public health problems' - This was stated by Dr Jonathon Streeton, a consulting respiratory physician employed by the Northern Grampians Shire Council.

To allow the pit to proceed under these health concerns with SGM, doing the monitoring is not feasible.

Additional to the dust concern is the health risk associated with exposure to arsenic in mine tailings, especially for children. The Stawell Kindergarten was moved for this reason.

Other voiced concerns have focussed on an increase in stress due to noise, vibration, loss of property values, harassment and disruption of general lifestyle and amenity.

The proposal has already caused anxiety, depression and polarisation of Stawell's formerly close-knit community.

When the mine closes a further risk is the large and dangerous void, which will have to be made secure for hundreds of years. Being close to schools is an added dimension.

Quarries have a poor record for deaths and Stawell's previous voids made 100 years ago have claimed lives.

Property Values: For those near the proposed pit there has been a drop of approximately 10% in values, according to a recent valuation.

It is little wonder that anxiety has been caused, when ones home is often the major asset. To add to their woes, residents have been approached by the mine urging them to accept a payment of around $2000 per annum for 'inconvenience' in return for silence and lack of criticism.

Amongst these residents are war veterans and widows who have the right to the peace they fought for. Some Shire Councillors and the SGM cheer squad have been unhappy to see these people hung out to dry.

If the State and the Shire need this pit so badly, they should see that residents are paid just and open compensation and as in Yallourn's case, moved to a safer environment.

Damage from Blasting: There has been cracking of brick veneer houses. The mine denies any responsibility, but houses which were sound for many years before gold mining resumed, have cracked.

It is known that vibration effects are cumulative and with 20 years of blasting it is not surprising that cracks have appeared. The pit would expand the problem.

Culture and Heritage: Big Hill is an icon for Stawell. For locals and visitors alike it gives a panoramic view of the Grampians and Pyrenees and is a superb lookout for such events, eclipses, meteor showers and bushfires.

It has heritage value as the scene of the original reef mining and relics and monuments abound. Big Hill has recently been given interim heritage listing.

Amongst the historical relics are the remains of a unique 125 year gravity water supply from the Grampians, but the Grampians Water Board and Shire Council have allowed the destruction of the original receiving reservoir.

In addition, the draft report by the Environment Conservation Council has not protected the valuable box iron-bark forest on Big Hill on which fauna and flora rely.

The mine proposes to 'replace' Big Hill, but the majority US owner and other coal miners of West Virginia, have failed to replace the mountains of West Virginia to 'approximate original contour' as required, so why would they do it here?

SGM are talking about a lookout tower - a poor substitute for Big Hill.

Australia's Gold Miners: The industry through its past role in Australia is a powerful lobby group.

The effects of Eureka and its 'hands off miners' consequences has caused it to become a pariah amongst industries.

It is controlled by ex-miners, with who it has a too-cosy relationship. In Victoria planning laws are broken, regulations ignored and accidents hushed up and cleaned up.

The industry justifies its assault on communities and the destruction of the environment with the promises of jobs and economic benefit, but at the conclusion invests its profits elsewhere and leaves the community with a dangerous mess.

Responsibility for contamination, subsidence and effects on dwellings and people is vigorously denied.

Recent events such as Esmerelda's cyanide spill in Romania, Dome Resources disaster in PNG and BHP's OK Tedi River destruction in PNG, have brought shame on Australia.

SGM's Parent Company: The controlling shareholder of SGM is Pittston Minerals of Virginia, whose main activity have been coal mining in West Virginia.

Coal Mining West Virginia

Their track record is horrendous. Their illegal dams caused one of the US's worst mine disasters, the drowning of 125 people at Buffalo Creek and the destruction of a 16 mile river valley.

Thanks to the help of the State Governor, who was subsequently jailed for corruption, Pittston only paid $US1 million out of a total damage bill of $US11 million and West Virgina taxpayers picked up the TAB for the rest.

At the time of the Buffalo Creek tragedy, the current CEO of Pittston Minerals was an executive with the Company.

Along with other West Virginian miners, Pittston has been involved in 'mountain top removal' mining which has destroyed communities and the environment.

Pittston Minerals, now owned by Pittston Brinks, is vacating the coal mining industry and will want every dollar it can get from Stawell's mine.

Stawell Gold Mines Pty Ltd (SGM): This company is a $2 company owned by another $2 entity so its assets are not readily available.

It is well schooled by Pittston in puffing up its importance to Stawell and downgrading the importance of Big Hill, by calling it a 'mullock heap'.

It has claimed that gold has been the mainstay of Stawell. It hasn't for most of the last century. It's executives have influenced local government and organisations, aided and abetted by the previous Victorian Government. Laws and regulations have been broken with a wink and a nod.

The company has contracted out part of its workforce and we have the dangerous and impossible situation where the labour hiring contractor is responsible for a work environment he is not permitted to be in, let alone supervise. What is the government going to do about this situation?

On the Big Hill issue, SGM cited Waihi, NZ as a town which has benefitted from an open-cut gold mine within its boundaries. Since then Waihi has suffered subsidence, which has closed part of its Main Street, with subsequent loss of retailers.

Waihi New Zealand below

Waihi was also help up as an example of what a gold mine can do for a community to the Turkish town of Ovacuk, but the Turks were too smart to take the bait.

At the EES panel hearing, SGM said it would operate the proposed pit according to quality standards of ISO 14000 (Australian Standards 9000), but it has no plans to go for them - talk is cheap.

In contrast to its predecessor, Western Mining Corporation, its drilling program has caused considerable environmental damage to Big Hill.

SGM is not a signtaory to the Australian Mineral's Industry Code for Environmental Management (2000), in contrast to Bendigo Mining NL and other gold miners.

Self-Monitoring: The industry is one which must not be allowed this responsibility in Victoria.

In SGM's case, evidence from the coal mines of West Virginia, where Pittston operates, has revealed that instuments are not calibrated, results are ignored and deliberately falsified. Pittston's denial of their own readings and the warnings of locals led to the Buffalo Creek disaster.

If the Big Hill pit goes ahead, will SGM shut down operations when the dust levels get too high?

Message to the Victorian State Government: The Kennett Government subsidised gold mining in Victoria - an unwise investment in an 'old economy' with terminal prognosis.

The Kennett Government gave miners like SGM, green lights all the way and allowed public servants to be compromised into breaking rules and regulations.

The Kennett Government allowed its Planning Minister to sanction an EES for Stawell, which should never have been granted and the Premier himself lied about who makes the decision to grant the permit to mine.

The Kennett Government used its 'commercial-in-confidence' routing and control of local government to con Stawell's local authorities to be protagonists and apologists for SGM.

The Kennett Government is the Guilty Party.

The Bracks Government has shown that it is willing to investigate and tackle wrongdoing by gold miners and public servants controlling their activities.

The rejection of the Big Hill propsal would send a signal to the industry that the Government also has a concern for people and rural communities.

In the only recognised poll taken in Stawell about SGM's proposal, a majority of residents were against it and would applaud the rejection.

Authorised by the Big Hill Action Group. Also published in Stawell Times-News August 11, 2000.

History of Events leading up to the EES 'October 1998

Need to briefly outline the development of the project to remove Big Hill and open pit mine adjacent to Stawell's CBD and residential area.

It is important that this community understands and is made aware of the sequence of events which show clearly that under the guise of "Commercial in Confidence" they were kept in the dark by the SGM/P/L, several government departments, (and our poltical representatives) and our own local government administration, not for 3 or 4 months, but for 2 1/2 years.

The bells rang for me when in June, this year, I was included, by the mine, in an exclusive small "peer group", handpicked by them and given a 2 hour PR information session which posed more questions than it answered. On the same day, I found out that the mine had bought 2 houses on the east side of Upper Main Street. At that PR meeting, mine management responded to all questions about their plans with vague answers e.g. It is months away...It is too soon for a public meeting...It is too early to worry about the moving of water reservoirs... It is months before we will know about the final mineralisation zone etc etc. Two days later, I discovered that 5 out of our 7 councillors knew nothing about the proposal and there had never been an informal or formal briefing by SGM of the Council. Only the CEO and the previous Mayor were fully briefed and involved with SGM in discussions about their plans. When I contacted the present Mayor on 29/6/98 he seemed to have only a little knowledge of the proposal and seemed to believe that it was "a long way away". I do not believe that he knew any of the details and it was only, as a result, of my newspaper interview that he was then fully briefed.

As an ex-councillor, knowing that under the Local Government Act, the Mayor has no executive powers and is one amongst equals and knowing that the CEO must always (on matters on importance where he has no delagated powers) report fully to the whole council. I was appalled to discover what had been going on. I am sure you can understand that when you find out that there has been and continues to be, such blatant misuse of power and deliberate silence over an issue which has the potential to change the physical, social and economic structure of Stawell forever, then the bells really started to ring very loudly.

The question I asked myself and which sent us on the quest for the truth was this:-

Why would politicians, state government departments, local government administration, water board administration, and the mining company keep the majority of councillors and residents of Stawell, and the citizens of the Shire in complete ignorance of such a huge and potentially devastating project???

Why would the company carefully select certain people in the community and take them into their confidence??? Why would the company hand pick 10 residents, most of whom live near the proposed pit, to be part of an elite group who were supposed to fulfill some "Go forth and spread the good PR news" role.

Why, when SGM had already applied to the Minister for an EES (12/6/98), which was granted on 2/7/98, were the managers still saying, it is all very vague, and it is not the right time to have a public meeting. How can any intelligent person have any faith in this planning process which Minister MacLellan says is "open" and has "integrity".

This is the real story.

(1) In about December 1995, SGM "ran past ***1 & ***2 the proposal to open pit mine adjacent to the Main street.

(2) The Waihi Gazette, June 1996, has a 3 page article about the reporters visit to Stawell. It clearly indicates a close connection between SGM and the NG Shire in 1996. Where the mine discussed its future plans with ***1 & ***2.

(3) From March 1997 after the Council was re-elected, there were many meetings between mine management and the *** and the ***. These continued until July 1998 when I put the story in the Times News. There was never, in all that time, a briefing of the Council. Some senior staff were involved, but this was not of their doing and no blame should rest with them. They were under instruction. It is of great concern that staff and the residents of Waihi knew more about this proposal than the residents of Stawell.

(4) On 29th June I phoned Mayor *** at 8.30am and told him I found out about the mines plans and had all the details. He was quite naturally mystified and I don't doubt, found it hard to believe. Later that same day the mayor was showen a consultants report by the ***2 and was then aware that everything I had told him in the morning was true.

(5) I published all of this information on 3/7/98 and this set off an amazing train of events. Within 24 hours the mine organised a council briefing for the next week. This involved many phone calls to WA and one or two flights!!! Within 2 weeks, the Department of Infrastructure had organised to 'hijack' the council's public meeting put down for 4/8/98. Why did they have to piggy back on the council's public meeting? Because under the guidelines for an EES, they must hold such a meeting within 4 weeks of the EES being granted and they knew (but we did not!!). That the EES was granted on the 2/7/98. They had to have their meeting before the 6/8/98 and that would have been difficult only 2 days after the council's public meeting. Who knows what information might have come out at a real open public meeting????

(6) While this was going on ### got on the internet and made a connection with Waihi. Our information from Waihi made the connection between our mine manager and the fact that he had been the manager at the Waihi mine before coming to Stawell. The information we started to get was so worrying that we were having sleepless nights. What had happened in Waihi was exactly the same as was happening to us in almost every detail. The same total lack of detail about the project, the disinformation, the buying of certain selected people, usually those in some position of power. We were so concerned about what was happening that we decided to bring #### out to Stawell for the meeting on the 4/8/98. The rest, as they say, is history. But the one thing we have to make sure happens is that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth comes out and that every detail of this proposal is on the table for every citzien to see.

(name withheld)

Friends of the Earth Leaflet (2000)

Have you heard the one about Stawell Gold Mine?

Did you know that the Victorian Government is currently deciding to sign agreements for two huge open cut gold mines to occur within the town of Stawell, in Central Western Victoria. The Northern Open pit will remove Stawell's famous 200 metre high 'Big Hill' and then rebuild the hill using waste from the mine! 'Big Hill' is famous for its panoramic views of the Grampians with a 360 degree vista being obtained from the hill. Big Hill is the most prominent and defining feature of the Stawell landscape. Mining will be allowed to take place within 100 metres of people's houses. The town's water supply will also be removed, with waste rock going to be dumped very near the vicinity of the new reservoir. There are very real concerns for people's air quality and health. Blasting is a concern in regards to its cumulative effect on houses and its potential to cause subsidence.

22.2 hectares of mostly mature box ironbark and heathy woodland, with some yellow gum woodland will be removed for the mine, including 9.4ha of Ecological Vegetation of State Significance, important habitat for the endangered Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater. Barking Owl, Powerful Owl and Four-toed Skink will also be impacted by the mining development. The southern pit of the proposed mines will be left as an open void 500 metres long and 200 metres wide. The lasting physical effects of the proposal will take the form of a large fenced-off hole in the ground called Public Open Space and an extended hill consisting of the revegetated mullock heap, to which public access will be once again made available.


Mining Project Investors Pty Ltd: (MPI) is a privately owned mineral exploration, development and operating company. The company was founded in 1992 by members of the former Australian Consolidated Minerals. Initial major shareholders included the Pittston Company, a diversified US-based group, and Outokumpu, a Finnish resource company. Outokumpu sold out to MPI several years ago.

MPI acquired Stawell Gold Mine in Victoria from WMC Limited in a 50/50 joint venture with Pittston in December 1992. In April 1999, Lion Selection Group announced that it had invested A$6.1 million in MPI for a 16.3% share of the company. The investment was part of an A$8 million equity raising to Lion and existing MPI shareholders to fund exploration and development programs and provide general working capital. Stawell is a 93,000 oz pa mine with Lion saying that current reserves and resources support a mine life in excess of 10 years. Since MPI and Pittston acquired the mine in 1992 over 1 million oz of resources have been mined. In addition, MPI has an active exploration program in Australia and Nevada (USA) in a 50/50 joint venture with Pittston and some $20 million cash following the equity raising.

As of June 2000, MPI's current shareholders are; about 30% of Mining Project Investors is owned by William John and Patricia Gerahty, 16% by Lion Selection Group, about 50% by Pittston Mining, with the remainder owned by small companies. John Gerahty (Chairman of MPI) has been known as Peter Scanlon's 'right hand man'. Scanlon helped build up Elders IXL with John Elliot in the 1970's and 80's, before forming AFP, a cash box that built a large portfolio of investments in Australia, Europe and North America. When AFP split in 1992, Scanlon received about $60 million, which has benn used to fund Brencorp's investments in public and private companies. Gerahty was also a AFP partner. The Brencorp group was set up in 1984 and has a large shareholding in investment group Lang Corporation, which made an estimated $80 million on a quadrupling of share price after the Waterfront recent dispute. Both Gerahty (1986-91) and Scanlon (1989-91) were also directors of Australian Consolidated Minerals, meaning that they have a working relationship with at least four of MPI's current directors. Deputy Chairman of MPI is John Dahlsen. Mr Dahlsen is a consultant to, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, since 1993, Chairman Woolworths Ltd since 1997, Director since 1992, Chairman Melbourne Business School since 1996, Deputy Chairman Mining Project Investors Pty Ltd, Director ANZ Banking Group since 1985, Director Southern Cross Broadcasting (Aust) Ltd (owners of Channel 10 and Radio 3AW), Director John Holland Group Pty Ltd 1991-92, Non Executive Director Bell Resources Group 1987-88, Bell Group 1988, Chairman Herald and Weekly Times Ltd 1986-87, Director 1980-87, Director Institute of Public Affairs. Many current directors of MPI were involved with ACM (Australian Consolidated Minerals).

Australian Consolidated Minerals: This company worked through joint ventures with other companies in nickel, copper, gold, diamond and uranium searches. As at December 1996, Normandy held a 75% interest in the company. ACM had close links to Amax Inc - America's largest mining company and the world's largest producer of molybdenum (a crucial ingredient in the hardening of steel, especially for weopons systems). It had a gold/silver JV at Mount Waihi in New Zealand (a project which has attracted opposition from environmentalists). ACM also had links to Ashburton, Command Minerals, Getty Oil, PNC, West Coast Holdings and Nickelore NL, companies that were searching for uranium in Australia in the 1980's.

North Kalgurli Mines Ltd: By the late 70's, North Kalgurli, a relatively small ore-treatment company, had become a major partner with one of the world's giant uranium corporations, United Nuclear, in uranium exploration in Australia - particularly in developing the Honeymoon uranium mine in South Australia. Directors of MPI had links with North Kalgurli Lines Ltd.

Lion Selection: This group plans to invest up to $80 million in 10 to 15 small and medium sized Australian resource companies focused on activities in Australia, Africa or South East Asia/India. During 1997 tenement applications were registered in the Philippines by Indophil (61.3% owned by Lion Selection), covering 4000 sq km, mainly focused on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao. In February 1998, Lion agreed to invest $4m in capital to earn between 50-80% of Havilah Resources NL, an Australian exploration company with a focus on SA, Central Australia and Indonesia. Lion Selection is involved in the Highland Rocks portion of the Tanami region WA. In July 1998, Lion acquired an 11.8% stake in East African Gold Mines Ltd at a cost of $7.3 million and as of April 1999, Lion invested $6.1m for a 16.3% share in Mining Project Investors Ltd (MPI). MPI's major operating asset is a 50% share in the Stawell Gold Mine in Victoria.

Pittston Mining: Headquartered in Richmond, Virgina USA, The Pittston Company is a $4 billion diversified business and security services company with interests in four businesses: Brink's Incorporated, the world's largest and premier provider of cash management and secure transportation services, Brink's Home Security, a national leader in residential security; BAX Global, a worldwide provider of specialized transportation and supply chain management services; and Pittston Minerals Group, with interests in natural resources and gold. Pittston is also an Appalachian based producer and marketer of low sulfur steam coal for domestic utility companies and high quality metallurgical coal for steel production worldwide. Pittston Minerals is a production and exploration company with direct and indirect interests in gold production in Australia and exploration in the western United States and Australia with a 50% direct and 22.5% indirect interest in the Stawell Gold Mine in western Victoria, Australia.

Pittston owns more than 140,000 acres of timber-producing surface property overlaying coal reserves in Virginia. The property contains typical Appalachian hardwoods which are harvested at a rate of 5 million board feet per year. Mountain Forest Products Inc., owned by Pittston is currently building a 9 million low-grade facility at Clintwood, Virginia. This facility, which will include a 250,000 ton per year chip mill and a low grade sawmill that produces railroad ties and low-grade timber. Pine Mountain Oil and Gas Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pittston Coal Company, was established in 1984 to identify, consolidate and manage the company's oil and gas resources. Pine Mountain owns or has interests in approximately 390,000 acres in Virginia (250 000 acres) and West Virginia (140,000 acres).

Since 1990, Virginia's mining regulators have cited Pittston and its subsidiaries for 862 violations of environmental laws. Pittston Coal's record for protecting the environment, its neighbours and its workers has been a subject of debate for decades in Appalachia's coalfields. The company has taken heat for destroying wells and springs and damaging homes, with underground mines that cause the surface to drop and buckle. Over the years, the United Mine Workers union has blasted the company's safety record. Its reputation took its hardest blow in 1972, when one of its coal-refuse dams in West Virginia burst, killing 125 people (4000 people also lost their homes) in the worst mining disaster in America for 70 years. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS OF THE CITIZEN'S COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE THE BUFFALO CREEK DISASTER included; 1. Officials of the Buffalo Mining-Pittston Company are guilty of murdering at least 124 men, women and children in Buffalo Creek Hollow. 2. The Buffalo Mining-Pittston Company is guilty of gross negligence, wilfull violation of the law, and incomprehensible callousness to human needs and values etc.

This year (2000), Pittston's construction of a wood-processing mill in Southwest Virgina has prompted a new debate about the way the company cares of the region's land and water. More than 200 Pittston citations have been written by the EPA, for not having proper erosion-control structures, such as holding ponds that collect solids from mine waste water before it is released into nearby streams. The agency cited the company for 115 violations including "high effluent" discharges of iron and other substances into streams and rivers. In 1980, a federal grand jury in Roanoke indicted a Pittston subsidiary, Clinchfield Coal, and 11 Clinchfield managers in what prosecutors called the largest criminal case ever brought against a coal company. The indictements charged the company with falsifying dust samples, forging miners' signatures on dust-sample documents and issuing training certificates to miners who had never received the training.

US laws allow companies like Pittston to fill large streams with mine waste. In the last five years alone, the average size of strip mines has doubled. Today, the average mine permitted by the state measures 450 acres, roughly the size of 360 football fields. Coal companies need someplace to put the huge amounts of rock and earth they did up to get at valuable coal seams. Much of this material, which operators call spoil, is dumped into streams.

If that is the way that Pittston operate in the United States, imagine how bad they are likely to be at Stawell?

Another view of the Big Hill

From Big Hill to Big Hole?

Trust News April 2000

Once again, the National Trust is concerned with the future of one of Victoria's classified landscapes...Now the Trust is protesting at a proposed open cut into Stawell's landmark, the Big Hill. The Trust's concerns relate to the thoroughness of the Environmental Effects Statement, the impact upon the landscape and the protection of Victoria's goldmining heritage.

Stawell Gold Mines' (SGM) proposal to open-cut mine Stawell's Big Hill has riven the local community. Many are deeply distressed at the possible loss of the community's primary natural and cultural landmark, and the impact of mining on residential amenity.

The National Trust, assisted by expert witness Matthew Churchward, submitted to the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) panel hearing that the proposal is extreme and unprecedented. Until such time as it is technically and financially viable to undertake the work in a non-destructive manner, mining should be constrained to the less significant southern portion of Big Hill. SGM's proposal to reinstate most of the hill and its monuments would not preserve the precinct's significance, especially its mining heritage, the Trust submitted.

Big Hill is the cradle of quartz mining in Stawell, the thrid most productive quartz goldfield in Victoria. When mining ceased in the early twentieth century, Big Hill was gazetted as a reserve for public purposes and quickly became the setting for the town's principal monuments. Prominent among these is the Pioneer Memorial, whose classical form conveys its solemn community meaning; two Governors General participated in its opening ceremonies. Big Hill is also the most prominent and defining physical feature of the Stawell townscape, and commands remarkable views over the town to the Grampians.

National Trust research revealed that the Big Hill mining heritage is of far greater significance than estimated in the mining company's EES. In particular we found that the Quartz Discovery Memorial is situated upon Sloanes Reef, the scene of the first permanent quartz mining in Stawell. A little digging might indicate whether the so-called "shafts" beside it are in fact the remnants of open-cuts on the original reef outcrop.

The Stawell goldfield was distinguished by the duration of its small quartz mining operations, and by the great 'Claim Jumping' dramas, which attained national prominence in the 1870's.

To the north of Big Hill, highly capitalised companies began to work at depth the reefs which had outcropped on the hill. At one stage Australia's three deepest shafts had been sunk by these companies, a few of which achieved enourmous yields. However it is Big Hill which retains evidence of the earlier phases of Stawell's quartz mining, in addition to later phases of larger-scale mining and cyaniding. It is a compact reserve of mining heritage which, unusually among Victorian gold towns, has been substantially preserved from urban development.

Big Hill retains other exceptional evidence of small-scale mining:- two deep open cuts, and the substantial remains of an ore tramway (the EES did not assess its potential State level significance). Other heritage features include shafts, adits, water races, dams, tailings and mullock dumps, remnant walls, cyanide plants, and the original reservoir associated with Stawell's bold 1870's Grampians water supply scheme. Still, we have hardly scratched the surface in researching Big Hill, and there has been no archaeological investigations at all.

Evidence of orginal gold discovery sites in major goldfields is rare enough. More so when the site has so many other cultural associations, is part of the major landscape feature of an historic gold town, and is located within a precinct which has been the arena of quartz mining for over 150 years.

Gold is one of the great themes of Victoria's history. 'Goldfields' trails are only now being developed and can be expected to become a key cultural tourism resource. The forthcoming sesquicentenary of the discovery of gold in Victoria will cast our gold heritage into the public spotlight. Big Hill's cultural and tourism significance can only appreciate, and any approval to destroy it is likely to be deeply regretted within a few years.

David Moloney is Historian for the National Trust.

Existing Stawell Gold Mine

New mines proposals under fire (Age October 10, 2000)

The Bracks Government plans to allow mining closer to houses by Gabrielle Costa

Mining companies will be permitted to operate closer to homes and resident compensation will be capped at $10,000, under controversial plans outlined by the Bracks Government.

The cap on compensation - which is now unlimited - has outraged anti-mining groups across the state, who condemned the government's consultation process as farcical.

Environment and Conservation Minister Sherryl Garbutt last week outlined the Mining Resources Development (Amendment) Bill, which, if passed, will allow mining companies to mine within 100 metres of a residence provided they have an appropriate licence. Mining within 100 metres of a home is forbidden at present.

Ms Garbutt explained to parliament on Thursday: "It is important to recognise that unlike most other areas in Australia, mining developments in Victoria have occurred and are likely to occur close to settled areas."

The changes would ensure environmental standards and people's rights were protected while encouraging viable mine development, she said.

"While there is some justification for some landowners and occupiers to be able to claim for loss of amenity, the nature of this provision exposes the mining industry to open-ended, potentially high-cost legal actions to which no other industry is similarly exposed."

Ms Garbutt told the Legislative Assembly the objectives behind the changes were "to ensure that claims for compensation for loss of amenity on account of mining operations are fair and equitable and do not create a significant open-ended commercial liability for mining companies".

A spokesman for the Coalition of Communities Against Open-Cut Gold Mining in Victoria, Graeme Reed, said the changes would adversely affect people's right to compensation for loss of amenity, including dust, noise and other inconveniences.

But Ms Garbutt told Parliament that "a maximum value of $10,000 is appropriate to compensate for the loss of amenity".

Mr Reed said the government had "caved in to the demands of the mining industry".

Barbara Bennett, an activist in Stawell where there are plans for an open-cut mine in the centre of town, agreed and said the government had sold out residents despite promising to take public submissions on the matter.

Both said the government had called for public discussions on the changes, then tabled the proposed amendments before thoroughly considering public submissions.

"We all felt total disillusionment ... and disbelief that the government could have let us down so badly when we had come to believe that at last we had leaders whom we could trust to consider to look after regional Victoria," Ms Bennett said.

She said people in Stawell, some of whom had voted for Labor for the first time last September, had been devastated by the government's action on mining.

Opposition Leader Denis Napthine said the government's handling of the consultation process had been abysmal.

"The issue is not so much what the amendments are but how the government has handled it," he said, explaining that the government had released a discussion paper about six weeks ago and produced the legislation within a week of the consultation deadline.

"The consultation process is an absolute sham," Dr Napthine said. "It is absolutely a con."

A government spokesman could not be contacted yesterday.




The existing Stawell 'underground gold mine.