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    David Grimble.

Stavely Block mining watch on Grampians fringe

By Michael Scalzo

Brimpaen farmer and former Horsham mayor David Grimble has emphasised a need for ongoing community consultation and transparency as mineral exploration continues throughout the region.

Mr Grimble, in response to questions about mining exploration on the Grampians’ northern fringe, said maintaining open lines of communication between mining companies and communities was essential.

WIM Resource, developing Avonbank mineral-sands mine at Dooen, north of Horsham, is also on the hunt for gold and copper deposits. 

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It secured a five-year exploration licence on a 757-square-kilometre Stavely Block in Brimpaen district in September, 2019, and has started the search.

It is one of many mining companies searching for valuable resources across the Wimmera-Mallee. 

Brimpaen exploration is mainly occurring on sheep and cereal farming land and is relatively close to national parkland.

“Community engagement should remain the main focus throughout this period,” Mr Grimble said.

“It is so important to keep those lines of communication open, especially if there is variation in the direction of the project. The community needs to be informed every step of the way.”

The prospect of mineral exploration in the area has generated mixed community feeling.

Mr Grimble said while mining operations at Brimpaen might have enormous economic potential in the region, opaque communication and project variations had been a problem between other mine operators and communities in the past.

He said experience of negative sentiment in the region’s southwest in 2015, which involved a different mining company and project, provided an example of what could happen when community expectation failed to match mine-project development.

He said deviations of procedures outlined during community consultations surrounding mining by-product management and land-rehabilitation practices by another company at the time ‘upset a lot of people’.

“There was initial project support but that was wound back towards the end when the company varied its project plan,” he said.

Mr Grimble said local government had a major role to ensure regional communities remained informed of any changes made by mine operators.

“Local government needs to keep them accountable and ensure they provide updates to the community. The better they can engage with the community, the better it is for everyone,” he said.

WIM Resource stakeholder liaison officer Murray Wilson, meanwhile, said his company stood strongly by its reputation for community engagement.

He also assured stakeholders that the company would keep everyone well informed of developments.

“We’re very pleased to have established successful and ongoing relationships with people in the project area,” he said.

“WIM Resource prides itself on leading the way in stakeholder engagement and we’re regularly in contact with landholders.

“We’ve had forums for the general community and we also have an office in Horsham where people can readily get in contact with staff members to find out what’s happening in detail. 

“We’re also explaining to everyone what we’re doing at markets, field days and other community events.”

Mr Wilson emphasised that field-work activities in the Brimpaen area were low-impact and the company would only know more about mineral exploration prospects after completing a geophysical survey program.

“We are conducting some small geophysical survey work in the field, chatting with landowners and beginning some small non-invasive drilling,” he said.

“It basically involves people walking around surveying where there might be opportunity where we could put a drill hole down and assessing whether there’s potential for further exploration. 

“It’s a long, long way off getting a mine up and running, which is an extensive, exhaustive and long-term exercise. And WIM is very good at making sure it completes very detailed and complete investigations.”

Mr Wilson said the company was communicating directly with landowners about the exploration and planned to provide further updates on the project later in the year.

“WIM Resource recognises the Wimmera is going to be a key mineral sand mining area of Victoria, which is going to generate massive economic growth in the future,” he said.

“At the same time, we’re obviously very conscious of types of stakeholders in the region and in reality, carefully follow exploration and land-access guidelines.

“Importantly, we’re determined to make sure we’re clear and open in everything we’re doing and that involves the broader Horsham district as well as key stakeholders.”

Mr Grimble said he would adopt a patient approach to see what exploration revealed about the Stavely Block.

“My view is that this is a wait-and-see situation. Across the country there is a lot of mining exploration going on, so we will have to wait and see if they find things first,” he said.

“It might not come to fruition; the minerals have to be there first and it has to be economical – I am not losing sleep about it at the moment, but I am quite intrigued.”

The entire January 19, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!