'Super pit' raises concerns

This is in response to Les Evens' letter entitled KGHM Has The Needed Clout (The Daily News, Feb. 13).

As Mr. Evens suggested, I looked up the Kalgoorlie, Australia, super-pit example. The official city and mining company websites emphasize the substantial economic impacts, as well as the multiple ways the company contributes to the community.

The "super pit" has become a touristic site. I also took the time to research beyond the official websites.

What more might be learned by reading some of the related newspaper articles and official technical reports posted on the web?

It would also appear that despite their best intentions and efforts, the simple reality of having an open-pit mine next to a city presents some irresolvable problems.

Excerpts speaking to this point from the mine's own website: "Despite a long history of mining in the area, KCGM has no shortage of challenges when it comes to community relations. . . . Because of its location adjacent to the community, KCGM fields concerns about blasting activity, noise, dust and air emissions."

The community relation's office has instituted a 24-hour hotline to receive issues and questions.

This hotline approach is certainly responsive, however what does the need for a 24-hour hotline suggest about the prevalence of issues for the citizens of Kalgoorlie? Why have these been unable to be resolved?

A 2005 newspaper article highlights that the Western Australian government has tightened controls over the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mine operating license. There were issues related to groundwater, conditions related to dust, liquid and contaminated wastewater.

In a Feb. 9, 2008 article: "It's become the ultimate story of two immovable forces - city versus mine - at a time when the mining industry is going gangbusters. . . . KCGM spent $268 million with local businesses last year and is the city's biggest employer.

"However, it has a poor track record when it comes to keeping pollutants at a minimum and is the nation's biggest single emitter of mercury.

". . . Monitoring indicates noise from the existing KCGM operations exceeds the assigned noise levels in the noise regulations at all five reference locations, during both day and night," the company said in applying to the EPA for a variation to the legislation. "Locals say the EPA has a poor record of protecting citizens, and the super-pit expansion is no different."

I was particularly struck by the advertisement for a senior environmental scientist posted in May 2012.

"Kalgoorlie is a place where you are going to find everything you could want in relation to environmental issues; air quality, acid mine drainage, contaminated land, ecology/botany/ EIA Mining . . . just to name a few," stated the posting.

It is a complex issue; much can and must be learned from the Kalgoorlie experience and its legacy.



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