StockJournal ALISHA FOGDEN 6 Aug 2020,
YORKE Peninsula landholders have been left “shocked” and feeling “misled” by the state government following the approval of Rex Minerals’ Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation for its $585-million Hillside copper-gold mine near Ardrossan.
Last month, Rex Minerals managing director Richard Laufmann declared it was “time for nation building” following the approval.
“The Hillside project will be a critical bedrock in the nation’s recovery, providing opportunities for wealth creation in the trifecta of local jobs and business opportunities, government royalties and taxes, and shareholder returns,” he said.
“Copper is one of the fundamental elements that is crucial to the electrification of everything. As the transition to an electrified world gathers momentum, Hillside is well-placed to feed into that exciting and emerging thematic.”
But many landholders directly affected by the mine have expressed shock and disappointment that the government approved the PEPR, after being told it would not be signed off without Rex either purchasing the affected farmland or getting landholder agreements to access the land within the original 2014 Mining Lease footprint.
You can’t buy what we have here.- BRENTON DAVEY
Pine Point farmer Brenton Davey, whose 450-hectare cattle and cropping property is within the mine’s proposed blast zone, said he had not signed a land access waiver and didn’t intend to.
His family have farmed the property for more than 160 years and the next generation were interested in continuing that tradition.
“They can’t pay what the land is worth to us,” he said.
“But it’s never been about the money. You can’t buy what we have here. We have 180-degree seaviews and this is good climate, fertile land, that produces quality cattle.”
About a quarter of Mr Davey’s land is in the blast zone.
“But the mine will affect our whole property with noise, dust, lights,” he said.
“Our house is more than 100 years old, even with the buffer zone, our house won’t withstand the blasting.
“The mine’s waste rock dump and pit will go right up to our fence, which means the 400-metre buffer is on our land.”
Mr Davey said the PEPR approval had come as a “real shock” because all previous communications stated Rex first needed land access waivers from the five affected landholders before the PEPR would be approved.
“Since 2014 to late last year, we have been told that,” he said.
“We are left feeling misled, while Rex gets another tick in the process. We want to know why.”
Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said while the environmental plan had been approved, Rex could not start formal mining operations until landholder agreements were reached.
“Four years ago, the former government committed to not approving Rex’s PEPR until all landholder agreements were reached, but this was legally unenforceable,” he said.
“Rex Minerals’ PEPR meets all environmental planning obligations, so it must be approved.”
Mr Laufmann said the “law is the law” and the company owned the land the mine sat on.
“We went through an extremely extensive and expensive community consultation process, this shouldn’t have been a surprise to those close to this, the conversations had been pretty clear,” he said.
“There are five landholders within the mining lease footprint, but none within the operating boundary.
“If we do plan to operate or blast in any way, we will have to get a waiver from any affected landholders.”
In order to satisfy conditions of its PEPR, Rex will have to commence operations before December 31, 2022.
Mr Laufmann said the next 30 months would be spent finding finance for the project and then executing primary plans, such as road diversions, water and power extensions, water, dust and noise monitoring, and establishing baseline stations, before any mining could begin.
“As a consequence of that, there is a lot of waivers that do hang off the back of those things,” he said.
‘GUTS’ RIPPED OUT OF FARMING BUSINESS
THE Redding family farms within the Hillside mine footprint and is very disappointed by the government’s decision.
“We have followed their rules for years. Now they’ve changed those rules, without even consulting with us,” Malcolm Redding said.
“Rex need to come to an agreement with us, because under the original Mining Act 1971, of which their mining lease was granted, our dam can’t be less than 150 metres from mining activities, or they need to get a waiver. They definitely don’t have that waiver.”
Malcolm and Cathy Redding farm with sons Christopher and Matthew, who also have their own children.
The mining lease covers more than 500ha of their 700ha Sandilands property.
“This mine will will rip the guts out of our business,” Mrs Redding said.
“And it’s not just us, family members work in the local community. It’s not that easy to just relocate, particularly on the YP, and start again. This was our succession plan.
“Malcolm has spent close to 50 years building this property up, planning to leave it in a better condition for his children, and not only do they propose we leave it, but then they plan to dig it all up.
“We understand the significance of mining, but our farm will never grow food again.
“We’ve always considered ourselves custodians of the land for future generations.”
Mrs Redding said approving the PEPR “took away any bargaining chip they had”.
“The Minister has advanced the mine another step, and we take another one closer to uncertainty,” she said.
Mrs Redding said they had been prepared to work with Rex, but compensation offers had been “unrealistic”.
“We were hoping that if we could broker a fair deal then that would be a precedent for others,” she said.
“But working to the mining company’s timetable, it is difficult to sell and buy in the same market.
“For nearly 10 years, this has hurt us.
“We don’t want our kids and their kids living in the shadow of a tailings dam, our grandchildren catching the bus in the dust.
“We have emailed both the Mining Minister and new Agriculture Minister David Basham, inviting them to our farm to see first hand how close mine is.
“We look forward to hearing from them.”
Both farming families say the mine has been “hanging over their heads” for close to a decade, keeping them in a holding pattern.
“More and more farm plans have been put on hold due to the uncertainty of whether we are wasting our time,” Mr Redding said.
“This has also put a hold on any plans for our farm until we know what our future looks like,” Mr Davey said.