Baal Gammon Mine threatens Walsh River ecosystem and communities
Baal Gammon Copper Pty Ltd is a 100% owned subsidiary of Monto minerals Ltd, who hold the mining lease and environmental authority for mining at the Baal Gammon mine. In May 2011, Monto Minerals signed a Mineral Resource Agreement with Kagara Ltd to mine the Baal Gammon site. Mining operations commenced in late 2011 as a open cut operation and ore being processed in the Mt Garnet processing plant.
Baal Gammon mine is situated within the water catchment of the
upper Walsh River near Watsonville, Atherton Tablelands Far North
Queensland. The Walsh River flows into the Mitchell River, which
spans the width of North QLD to ultimately end in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Baal Gammon mine potentially impacts waterways from Jamie Creek, the Walsh River, Collins Weir and the water supplied to downstream irrigators producing export crops and to grazers producing export beef. The Walsh River supplies domestic water and drinking water to many property owners living in the Watsonville area.
Baal Gammon Contamination
With the wet season came concern as residents living downstream from the mine saw their river run red. Driving past the cleared open cut mine site after rain clearly showed that the red silt came from runoff and erosion on the site
Where Jamie creek enters the Walsh is the most popular recreational swimming spot in area called the “beach”. It is favored by families because of its accessibility and its great sandy beach making it easy with young children. Normally during summer this is a busy place but unfortunately this year it was unusable.
In Feburary 2012 residents began to see more than just a red river and silt deposits, they also began to find dead fish. Some residents experienced headaches and one resident, who breeds exotic birds watched several of her birds sicken and die. The community immediately contacted DERM and made official complaints to the mine itself.
The Environmental Services section of DERM (now in the new Department of Environment and Heritage Protection), which licenses mining under the Environmental Protection Act, took upstream and downstream water quality samples on 8 occasions between 23 February and 3 April 2012. They found levels of contamination in Jamie Creek below the mine for Arsenic, Cadmium, Copper, Manganese, Nickel and Lead that variously exceeded:
Although Jamie Creek had already contained high levels of some contaminants as a result of historical mining activities – this spill significantly increased the concentration and type of contaminants released into Jamie Creek.
Baal Gammon Plans for Expansion
The proposed expansion, mining application MLA 20692, brings the mining operation into closer proximity to homes and affects the water catchments of Toy Creek and Bussy Creek which flow into the Walsh River, upstream from current contamination. This will potentially triple the number of homes whose domestic water supplies are affected. The mining activity on the new mining lease will dramatically increase visual impacts, noise and dust pollution, detrimentally affecting the quality of life of local residents. The closest freehold property is just 500m from the mining lease boundary.
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