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Clarks Gully Mine Submission Information

Clarks Gully Mine Submission Information

Save Our Macleay River [SOMR] committee members have put together some information to help you make a submission regarding the proposed Clark Gully Mine. You can say in your submission that you object to the proposed development or that you are making your submission regarding concerns that you have about the development. If you do object to the development then it is worth noting that in your submission.

If you are a downstream resident or rely on the downstream catchment for potable water you can state this in your submission. SOMR encourages concerned people from other areas to also make a submission.

Click here to view the Clarks Gully Mine EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] or go to

Submissions need to be addressed to:

Armidale Dumaresq Shire Council

Planning and Environmental Services

PO Box 75A,


Attention: John Goodall


DA/File No:                               DA -174-2015

Property Description:               140 STOCKTON ROAD, HILLGROVE, being Lot 7300 DP 1139642, Lot 1 DP976685, Lots 1-2 DP 911856, Lot 1 DP 911615, Lot 9 DP 979339 and Lots 119, 120, 144 and 409 DP 755834

Proposal:                                 ESTABLISHMENT OF AN UNDERGROUND MINE

Consent Authority:                  ARMIDALE DUMARESQ COUNCIL.

Submissions must be made by Friday 13th November.

Some points you may like to include:

  • No consideration of downstream users: Naturally occurring minerals, in particular arsenic, are leaching into the Macleay River and the tributaries. Any further disturbance by human activities has the potential to further pollute and contaminate the water. The new mine in close proximity to Bakers Creek is of particular concern.  The community and neighbouring council downstream have not been consulted. The ‘operations of the mine’ and the sediment and settling ponds are shown to be quite close to the already highly arsenic laden Clarks Gully ephemeral creek. There is a proposed ‘settling dam’ with adjacent sediment drying area, and ‘collection dam’ proposed under the water and sediment control measures, with various pipe and pump links. The diagram and/or descriptions do not clarify that the polluted ‘mine’ and ‘settling dam’ water will not be discharged into and cannot possibly reach Bakers Creek. Any escaped contaminants have the potential to impact on all those who rely on the Macleay supply for potable water. In the event of a spill what extra precautions are being taken to prevent or limit damage?  Furthermore, “specific locations of the sedimentation and mine water storage dams have not been finalised” (EIS p 49 and Appendix C 4-42) It is also stated that “The proposed approach to water management at the Clarks Gully Mine is preliminary only and subject to change” (Appendix C, p 46). Therefore, it is almost impossible to determine the impact of the Clarks Gully Mine on Bakers Creek. The specific locations of the on-site dams should be an integral part of the EIS. 
  • Mine capacity and tailing dams: According to the Annual Environmental Management Report 2014, the existing Hillgrove Mine extracted 111,088 tonnes in 2014 with a forecast for of 216,558 for 2015. A lifespan of 10 -15 years has been predicted by mine representatives. It is proposed that the Clarks Gully underground mine will extract 240,000 tonnes of ore per annum over a life span of 3-4 years. (EIS, p xv). A development period of close to 3 years will be followed by a production phase of approximately 4.1 years. The ore yield from Clarks Gully would more than double the current processing at the Hillgrove site. It has to be noted that the Water Resources Impact Assessment (Appendix C, p 74), uses a much shorter time frame for the development of the Clarks Gully Mine (14 months) and a lower production volume (175,000 t pa) as the basis of their assessment. The advice should be questioned because it is based on a lower production capacity than the proposal.
  •  Tailings Storage Facility 3 [TSF3]: Given that production and processing of ore at the Hillgrove mill site will be doubled, the environmental impacts of the whole Hillgrove Mine must be considered, particularly the capacity of the Tailings Dams must be scrutinised. A new tailings dam, TSF3, is mentioned in the plan, but the time frame and design is not part of this EIS, “but will be part of a separate DA”. (EIS p 17). The construction of TSF3 must be an integral part of the current planning and approval process.
  • Enhancing the health of the headwaters of the Macleay River catchment: This requirement is stated in the official Office of Environment & Heritage document [see Appendix A], but not included in the EIS nor addressed by the assessment on water. How will the proposed Clarks Gully underground mine and the increased operations at the Hillgrove Mine site enhance the health of the headwaters of the Macleay River catchment?
  • Decommissioning & Rehabilitation: Currently there is no plan for decommissioning & rehabilitating the mine. The EIS indicates that the plan will be developed 12 months after operations commence.  Regulation of mining by NSW Resources and Energy specify that: “Titleholders must also submit and comply with an approved Mine Operations Plan (including a rehabilitation plan), which is used for detailed rehabilitation planning and for monitoring rehabilitation progress and success. They are also required to submit security bonds for exploration, petroleum and mining titles, which cover the full cost of rehabilitation in the event of default by the titleholder (” A detailed rehabilitation plan should be part of the EIS.
  • Environmental bond: “A detailed Mine Closure and Rehabilitation plan for the proposed Clarks Gully mine will be completed within 12 months from granting of consent.” (EIS, P 130). Many mines across Australia have been abandoned by their operators. The toxic legacy is left behind for the community and taxpayers to clean up. Will the bond be reassessed/increased in line with increased activity leading to increased risk at the mine, transport and processing sites?
  • Transport & Disaster Management Concerns: There are concerns regarding the potential for contamination incidents occurring with the increased traffic on the haul road, which is along the escarpment. What safety plans are in place for such incidents? Will the haul trucks be covered?
  • Stormwater Modelling: Advice in Appendix C includes extensive modelling of stormwater impact on Clarks Gully and Bakers Creek in the vicinity of the Clarks Gully Underground Mine. There is no consideration given to stormwater impact on the water management structures at the site. The stormwater management plan, specifically relating to sedimentation and mine water storage, has not been finalised yet. It is probable that the sedimentation dam, the sediment drying area and the stormwater catchment dam will contain water contaminants such as arsenic and lead. Heavy rainfall impact on the water management structures at the Clarks Gully mine site must be investigated and take excessive stormwater into account.

Wetland Restoration in the Lower Macleay

In the evening after the Paddle on the Macleay, people gathered at the Stuarts Point Community Hall to learn more about the wetland restoration in the Lower Macleay.

During the day, while at the Golden Hole, NPWS Ranger Penny Kendall had already given a potted history of the area and the reasons behind the re-inundation. (See the previous post about the Paddle.)

In the evening, the appreciative audience listened to long term resident Lindsay Brackenbury (96) who expanded on the history of the Yarrahapinni area and the wetlands with an indigenous and non-indigenous perspective.

Rupert Milne Home, event organiser and ex-Chair of the Yarrahapinni Wetland Reserve Trust, and Penny Kendall gave a good insight into the difficult and lengthy process of negotiation by the Yarrahapinni Wetland Reserve Trust and later National Parks and Wildlife Service before tidal flow could begin. The land effected by acid sulphate soil and the water in the area responded almost instantly to the inundation with saltwater. Click here to read more about  The Yarrahapinni Wetlands Story

Considering the surprising speed and extent of the recovery, they concluded that it is now necessary to address the restoration of other wetlands such as the Clybucca.

The last speaker of the day was Oyster Grower Todd Graham. He gave an excellent insight into the interrelation of the ecosystems and the effects on the oyster industry:

In May 2014 the Macleay River Oyster Farmers Environmental Management System (EMS) was launched. In the EMS the highest external risk identified was Low pH/Acid Sulphate Soil (acidic water released through disturbance or drainage of acid sulphate soils). This acidic water has changed the Clybucca Harvest Area from a highly productive area to an area that the oyster farmers rarely use. The acidic water bleaches he shells of older oyster and it will kill younger oysters by dissolving their shells.

In late January 2015 this acidic water combined with low DO in the water caused a major fish kill. Any oysters that were in the Clybucca Harvest Area had to be moved to one of the other harvest areas. The continuation of a successful oyster industry in the Macleay will depend on the restoration of the wetlands in the estuary.

The Macleay River Shellfish Quality Assurance Program formally supports the Clybucca Floodplain Rehabilitation Project which is attempting to determine the best practice management options to improve the water quality emanating from the Lower Macleay floodplain landscape. This project is being headed by the Clybucca Working Group.  Click here to read about the Macleay River Oyster Farmers Environmental Management System

All the speakers agreed that the restoration of the wetlands in the Lower Macleay needs the support of the community.

SOMR is preparing a public event for early 2016. Scientists from the University of New England are going to present their latest research results in the Macleay River catchment. We also anticipate a presentation about the Clybucca Wetlands.

A perfect day on the water!


The following article was submitted by SOMR to the Macleay Argus and with some editing was published in the print edition on Tuesday 6 October.  

People came from near and far to experience the beauty of the Macleay River, enjoy the exercise and learn about the issues affecting the estuary. For the third consecutive year, the community group Save Our Macleay River (SOMR) has organised The Paddle on the Macleay.

Paddlers leaving Fishermans Reach

In brilliant sunshine and with favourable tide and tail winds, 50 paddlers, young and old, set out from Fishermans Reach near Stuarts Point, arriving at the Golden Hole and the entrance to the restored Yarrahapinni Wetlands ahead of schedule.

Eight members of the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club joined in their sleek and fast boats. Club Secretary Caroline Webber said, we take every opportunity to explore the rivers on the Mid North Coast and we are particularly interested in the Macleay. Several members of our club participated in the last year’s Paddle on the Macleay. This is an excellent opportunity to be guided into the wetlands.”
Family groups chose to paddle three seater Canadians. Amongst them, Jeremy Buckingham,
Greens Member of Parliament, with his wife Sarah and son James from Bellingen and the
Robinsons from Kempsey.

Beautiful handcrafted boats

The Tilmouths from Collombatti had beautiful handcrafted ply-wood kayaks.

The youngest and furthest travelled visitor was 10 year old Darcy Penfold from Queensland,  accompanied by his grandmother Louise Turner of Aldavilla. He impresssd everybody with his enthusiasm and stamina, especially into strong winds on the return trip.

Before the boats entered the wetlands through a gap in the levee, National Parks Ranger Penny Kendall gave an introduction to the land the visitors were standing on. One relevant feature is a very large midden, mounds of shells and artefacts stretching for kilometres, testifying to the use of the area by Dhanggati and Gumbaynggir nations over thousands of years.

NPWS Ranger Penny Kendall

Penny also described how the area was drained in the 1970’s, which did not result in the good grazing land hoped for.
Instead acid sulphate soils and ‘black water’ poisoned the land and waters downstream.
After a lengthy process of negotiation by the Yarrahapinni Wetland Reserve Trust and later National Parks and Wildlife Service, tidal re-inundation effectively began in 2008. The tidal flow of saltwater resulted in an immediate reduction in acid sulphate soils. The speed and extent of the recovery was surprising.    Click here to read The Yarrahapinni Wetlands Story

Once inside the wetlands, the participants could see firsthand how beneficial the re-inundation has been for fish and bird habitats. Besides many other bird species, three black necked storks, Jabirus, were spotted. Many paddlers even made a lasting contribution after Penny suggested they collect mangrove seeds along the banks of the open water and scatter them in the wetland’s broadwater. “I made sure I dropped them where they’d easily find a foothold to grow”, said Zalie Davison of Greenhill.

Rupert Milne Home, event organiser and ex-Chair of the Yarrahapinni Wetland ReserveTrust, described the Paddle on the Macleay 2015 and the restoration of the wetlands as wonderful successes.  “Now we need to address the restoration of other wetlands such as the Clybucca,” he said.

Reaching the Golden Hole

Through the gap in the levee

Into the wetlands

The Macleay Argus 6 October 2015


Click on pictures to see large images

Click to read a report written for the members of the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club  Paddle on the Macleay 2015 by Caroline Webber

Paddlers from Port Macquarie

Paddlers from Port Macquarie