STAWELL residents and business owners in favour of open-cut mining Big Hill will rally tonight.
MINE SUPPORT: Stawell residents and business owners supportive of Stawell Gold Mines’ rejected proposal to open cut mine Big Hill will rally tonight. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
Planning Minister Matthew Guy rejected Stawell Gold Mines’ Big Hill Enhanced Developemnt project last month, resulting in a bitter dispute between backers and objectors.
Tonight’s rally will be the first time the pro-mine side has mobilised its support for the project.
Rally co-organiser Alicia Crichton’s husband works at the mine.
She said Mr Guy’s decision left them feeling gutted.
“We saw on the news the Minister had said no and we both looked at each other and nearly cried,” Mrs Crichton said.
She encouraged people who supported the project to attend tonight’s peaceful public demonstration on Big Hill.
“We’re not going out and ranting and raving, this is purely to say we support our boys working here in Stawell and we don’t want them to have to become fly-in fly-out workers,” Mrs Crichton said.
She said the end of mining in Stawell would have a huge effect on her family.
“The mine is our only income apart from a couple of days a week I do working in town,” she said.”It’s not enough to cover a mortgage, it’s not enough to cover school fees.”
A widening chasm is emerging in Stawell between the two sides of the debate, with allegations of bullying and intimidation towards business owners on both sides.
Mrs Crichton said she did not believe the issue had divided the town, but was disappointed at the tactics used by some of the mine objectors.
“The unfortunate thing is the nastiness that has come from people against it,” she said.
“The abuse down the street is revolting. I cannot believe how rude they are.”
In a show of support for the mine, some Stawell businesses have placed golden heart stickers in their windows.
Comfort Inn Goldfields owner Leonie Clayton has a sticker on her business.
She said the future of Stawell’s economy was now uncertain.
Mrs Clayton said work from mine employees and contractors was essential to her business.
“We work pretty closely with the mines. Being a motel, a lot of the contractors who come down to work at the mine stay with us here and we do a lot of catering for the mine,” she said.
She said the flow-on economic effects to her suppliers would be damaging.
Friends of Big Hill’s Sherrie Hunt said health risks had always been her central objection to the mine.
“I’ve always said no one wins here,” she said.
“I’ve lost my job in the past and I know what it’s like.”
Mr Guy made his decision based on a report by an expert panel which followed an inquiry into the proposal.
The report concluded that because of the proximity of dwellings to the open cut fine particles of the carcinogen PM10, arsenic-laden dust and noise would not be able to be satisfactorily managed.
While the report acknowledged the economic effects of rejecting the proposal, it found they did not outweigh the health and environmental risks.
Katherine Lewis’s partner Daniel Gurney is an electrician at the mine.
She said the couple, who have three children under the age of four, were angry when they found out about Mr Guy’s decision.
“A lot of families are terrified they’re going to lose partners to fly-in fly-out work,” she said.
Miss Lewis and her partner have decided fly-in fly-out work would not suit them, which might force them to leave Stawell.
“I try not to get angry or upset because I know what it means for us to move away from our families,” she said.
“People are going to have to take their kids out of schools.”
She said community and business support for tonight’s rally had been strong.
“The mine has been one of the industries that has supported the town, it’s humbling to see that a large part of the community is there to support the mine.”
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