A Central West silver mine has been given the green light by the Independent Planning Commission, despite serious concern among locals in the region as well as some state MPs.
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Bowdens Silver Project in Lue - outside of Mudgee - was given the go-ahead by the NSW Independent Planning Commission on Monday, April 3.
The project will have approval to operate until 2046 including its construction, mining and site rehabilitation phases. The mine is expected to extract two million tonnes of silver, lead and zinc ore a year.
A whole-of-government assessment was carried out by the Department of Environment and Planning last year, and handed to the planning commission.
Locals raised concerns including potential hazards to health and the water supply, harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage, damage to biodiversity and the operator's ability to rehabilitate the area. They were also worried about impacts on traffic and transport in the region.
In February, a convoy of more than two dozen tractors and supporters in their vehicles drove into Mudgee, slowing down traffic amid scattered horns of support from some drivers.
The tractorcade, as it was called, was organised by Lue Action Group (LAG) to bring attention to what the group calls a dangerous and potentially damaging mine, and was timed to coincide with a public hearing in Mudgee.
"Based on the whole-of-government assessment and the expert evidence before it, the commission found that these issues were able to be appropriately managed through conditions of consent," the planning authority said.
Those in support said the mine could create employment opportunities and boost business in the local area.
The Lue Action Group (LAG) has been fighting to inform the community about what they say are some of the biggest dangers to Lue and the region if the mine is approved including potentially toxic runoff from the mine into the region's water.
In February Tom Combes, President of the LAG told ACM a scrapped pipeline means the risk of contaminated water is as high as ever.
Since the first Environmental Impact Statement was published in July 2020, there have been two amendments with one being a plan to move a transmission line that would run through Lue and the other to scrap the planned water pipeline.
"That got a lot of people very fired up because what that meant was all of the water for the project would come from the Lawson Creek valley, so it would come from rainfall runoff - it's about 50/50 - 50 per cent runoff and 50 per cent from groundwater and that really got everyone pretty fired up..," Mr Combes said.
Conditions placed on the mine include requiring the operator to have comprehensive management plans, and provide ongoing reports on impacts to the site and mitigation works.
In addition, the Department of Planning also recommended that blood testing be carried out on residents in Lue and surrounding area as part of a 44-page document which also outlined obligations for water safety and managing contamination risks, air quality and odour control and ongoing community consultation.
All the documents relating to the assessment and determination of this proposal can be found on the Commission's website.
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