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Opposition to Cangai mine grows

Geoff Helisma |

A group opposed to mining at Cangai, Stop Cangai Mine (SCM), voiced their concerns at a meeting with Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis on Monday February 11.

“The group is deeply concerned for the health of the Cangai and Jackadgery areas and the Mann and Clarence rivers,” their media release stated.

At the time of writing, Castillo Copper Limited (CCL) was awaiting a response from the NSW Resources Regulator, to allow it to recommence exploration at its Cangai mine site.

The regulator suspended exploration following an inspection of the site in November 2018 – CCL’s trading on the Australian Securities Exchange was also suspended.

SCM spokesperson Karen von Ahlefeldt said the group has started a petition, which it aims to have tabled in the NSW Parliament.

“Mr Gulaptis said he would present it to parliament, but [said] it will be a waste of time, even 10,000 signatures will not make a difference,” Ms von Ahlefeldt said.

“He said the mining licence fees and stringent licence regulations will make it too hard for them to go further.”

Regarding the petition, Mr Gulaptis told the Independent that “people power is important, but people who think a petition debated in parliament will make an immediate difference are naive”.

“It does help and, yes, it raises the issue’s profile in the public eye,” he said.

Mr Gulaptis said that legislative changes would be necessary to stop any mining, if and when the government approves mining in the area – currently CCL only has approval to explore.

“Changes would have to be made before a halt to activities could be enforced,” he said.

However, Mr Gulaptis said, “I would not support any short term gain from mining activity over the preservation of our environment, particularly if it threatens other industries like tourism and fishing, or our health and well being.”

In general terms, Mr Gulaptis said the Northern Rivers is “probably not the most suitable location for mining because it is a pristine area not mined very much in the past”.

“We have high rainfall and sub tropical rainforests that are not conducive to mining,” he said.

Ms von Ahlefeldt said her group would like to see “more inspectors, paid for by exploration licence fees, to enforce contractors’ compliance”.

“Self-regulation does not work,” she said.

On this, Mr Gulaptis contended that it would be impractical because there are too few mines in the region to locate an inspector in the area.

However, he emphasised that “anyone who breaches the terms of their exploration or development application licences should expect the full force of the law” to be applied.

How this could be achieved, though, is puzzling: Ms von Ahlefeldt contends that “the Cangai mine site is on private land in heavy bush, and is as inaccessible to locals as the licence conditions are to the lay person”.

In September last year, John Edwards from Clarence Environment Centre (CEC) notified the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) about his concerns regarding alleged breaches at the mining site.

Come November, he again contacted the EPA with his concerns, which are contained within an ongoing report he is compiling on the issue.

Subsequently, he said, “The regulators rang me back and told me they were going to inspect the site the following week; they rang again after the suspension was announced.”

SCM can be contacted at [email protected] or by private message via the Stop Cangai Mine Facebook page.