More than 170 Ardlethan residents gathered on Saturday to hear a mining magnate declare a massive landfill project “dead and buried”.
Australian Tin Resources director Peter Francis has unequivocally scrapped plans to to fill a disused tin mine north-west of Ardlethan with 400,000 tonnes of landfill a year, after success trialing a new technology to process byproducts of mining operations left over from the mid 1980s.
Farmers powered down headers to hear Mr Francis’ plans to build a $3 million tailings processing plant from September next year, which would employ 28 locals.
Mr Francis explained his dreams of trucking in household waste were long-gone, despite the state planning department website still exhibiting plans for the tip.
“Even though we'd written to the department some four months ago withdrawing the waste application, for some reason it’s still on the website,” Mr Francis said.
“We will write another letter to the department and provide copies to the council and community, so they can see the waste project is dead and buried and our focus is solely on the tailings.”
Australian Tin Resources has had success with a gravity processing technique using the latest technology to extract valuable metal out of finely ground rock, once thought to be waste.
Full-scale production is now subject to environmental approval by state bodies like the department of water and Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
Vocal campaigner against the dump Renee Doyle, who previously warned of a “mountain of waste”, was elated to see the back of the tip.
“I can see there can be fantastic benefits for the community and environment if this project is run properly,” she said.
“The existing dry tailings dams are on a ridge line, and dust blows across the whole countryside, so the whole site needs to be rehabilitated.
“Tailings are full of arsenic and sulfides, which exposed to water and oxygen break down and become sulphuric acid, which leaches out heavy metals.
“We have great concern over their ability to keep all the tailings under water, which stops them breaking down and contaminating groundwater.”
Coolamon shire mayor John Seymour “can't see any great problem with them remaining the tailings” and revelled in the looming boost to the local economy.