October 28th, 2022Mining concerns
MORE than 80 concerned residents packed St Martin’s Chapel in Blackwood to discuss recent gold mining activity and salvage logging in the surrounding Wombat State Forest.
Speakers including Dave Stephens, a local forest campaigner for more than 20
years, Gayle Osborne, president of Wombat Forestcare, and members of No Wombat
Gold discussed the potentially devastating effects of extractive industries operating in
the area and how residents could act to prevent further destruction of the forest.
Spokesperson Sophie Guerin said since exploratory gold drilling was unexpectedly
heard coming from near Shaws Lake in June 2020, the issue had become one of great
concern to many residents. Since then, another exploratory mining license had been
granted and was in operation, while a prospecting license and another exploratory
license are currently being reviewed by Earth Resources, she said.
“In June 2022 residents learned of another threat to the forest when
approximately two acres of trees and vegetation in nearby Babbington Hill were
found cleared for machinery and a log landing by VicForests.
“This area is just one of 175 salvage coupes in the Wombat that are threatened by
operations as part of VicForests’ controversial salvage Timber Utilisation Plan.
“In recent weeks Blackwood and Barrys Reef residents have received letters stating
that similar operations would begin in coupes surrounding the towns from October.
“Expert ecologists like David Lindenmayer have expressed concern that the
salvage logging operation will increase the likelihood and severity of bushfires, despite
claims from VicForests that this is one of the main reasons for the operation.”
Ms Guerin said both logging and mining had the potential to impact the town’s
water supply, but as the area also sits in the headwaters of the Lerderderg River, these
impacts could potentially affect residents all the way to Melton.
Other potential impacts included noise pollution, traffic and road destruction
from large trucks and negative impacts on tourism and local business, she said.
“Clearing bushland also has potentially devastating effects on local flora, fauna
and fungi including many threatened and endangered species such as the greater
glider and the mountain skink.”
Ms Guerin said in June this year the Victorian Government tabled its response to
the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s Central West investigation report.
“A new Wombat-Lerderderg National Park and a number of regional parks were
to be created, but since then the government has failed to legislate the promised park.
“In their response to the parliament, the Victorian Government stated that the
Wombat-Lerderderg National Park would be used in accordance with the general
recommendations for national parks including to ‘permanently protect the natural
environment and natural biodiversity along with underlying ecological structure and
supporting environmental processes’.
“It seems inconceivable, that after recognising the conservation values of the
forest, the government would allow environmentally damaging extractive operations.”
“A unanimous motion was passed to write to the Macedon state Labor MP MaryAnne Thomas to request that the Premier and Cabinet impose a moratorium on all
licenses, permits and works for all commercial log removal and mining activities in
the Wombat Forest until the planned legislation is proclaimed.”
Minister Thomas told The Local that all forestry and mineral exploration activities
were done under strict regulations.”
“Storm recovery work in the Wombat State Forest and elsewhere involves cleaning
up windthrown trees to reduce fuel loads and the fire risk to communities over the
coming years. Importantly, the work in the Wombat State Forest and surrounding
areas to restore Country is a partnership between traditional land owners, the Dja Dja
Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, and VicForests.”
“This is not salvage logging, it is removing fallen trees and getting access to
improve forest health and resilience, based on cultural practices and backed up by
scientific research that supports active management of our forests.”
Words: Donna Kelly | Image: Contributed