Research into the minerals exploration that has been underway in the Cangai area since 1917 has revealed numerous inadequacies across the entire monitoring and compliance system.
When the exploration company began reporting the finding of high grade ore, and the possibility of establishing an open-cut mine atop a mountain adjacent to the Mann River, local residents naturally became concerned.
A critical assessment of the company's licence application reinforced those concerns. Nowhere in that document is there any mention of the Mann River which, at Cangai, is little more than a kilometre away, and delivers some 70% of the Clarence River's total flow. Instead, in answer to the question asking what were the nearest waterways that might be impacted by the works, the proponent nominated Bobward and Smelter Creeks, two small ephemeral gullies that drain into the Mann.
Also, there is an assertion that only 40 square metres (5 metres by 8 metres) of bush would be cleared for each of the many drill sites - clearly an inadequate area for the safe operation of a drill rig, trucks and associated machinery.
An application to be included in the mandatory community consultation via the company's “contact us” portal, received no response whatsoever, forcing us to contact the regulatory authority, requesting an investigation be carried out.
Investigators from the NSW Resources Regulator subsequently undertook an on-site inspection, and a month later a media release informed the public that they had suspended all operations under the company’s two exploration licences.
The Regulator cited the reasons for the suspension as, “a lack of sediment and erosion controls; poor management of drill cuttings/waste materials; clearing and excavation works undertaken outside of approved limits; the drilling of bore holes without approval; and a failure to progressively rehabilitate in approved time frames”.
While it is gratifying to read that action is being taken, we have to ask would any inspection have occurred had members of the public not reported these breaches? The number of cases like this is evidence that self-regulation doesn't work; so it seems that, until regulatory authorities are adequately resourced, vigilance is the key.
- John Edwards
NOTE: The Mann River is major tributary of the Clarence River.
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on January 14, 2019.