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Upper House Inquiry into Gold, Silver & Lead Mining on Health, Environment Welcome

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
25 July 2023

Greens NSW MP and mining and water spokesperson Cate Faehrmann has welcomed a newly established Upper House Inquiry into the Potential Impacts of Gold, Silver, Lead and Zinc Mining on human health, land, air and water quality.

The Inquiry, which is expected to report its findings by 21 November 2023, is the first ever of its kind to be held.

“Communities living near the massive Cadia Gold Mine in the Central West have tried to raise the alarm for years about the potential impacts of the mine’s operations on their health and environment,” Ms Faehrmann said. 

“However, it wasn’t until the community got their water independently tested, which they then made public, that the state’s Environmental Protection Authority sprung into action.

“Despite Cadia knowingly emitting unacceptable levels of contaminated dust for an unknown period of time, our laws only allow for a maximum fine of $15,000 to be issued to the global mining giant.

“Our regulatory framework protects global mining companies more than it does local communities and the environment. This is clearly unacceptable and I certainly hope that we’ll come up with some recommendations to redress this imbalance. 

“We can expect very strong engagement with this Inquiry from multiple communities who are facing the prospect of a heavy metal mine being constructed nearby.

“With one gold mine and a silver and lead mine having recently been approved in regional NSW, we must ensure that every measure is taken to protect human health and the environment. If this can’t be guaranteed, then the mines should not progress,” said Ms Faehrmann.

The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are below:

  1. That Portfolio Committee No. 2 inquire into and report on the potential impacts of gold, silver, lead and zinc mining on human health, land, air and water quality in New South Wales, in particular:
    1. The impact on the health of local residents and mine workers, including through biomagnification and bioaccumulation,
    2. The impact on catchments and waterways, affecting both surface and groundwater destined for, local and town water supplies, including rainwater tanks, and on aquatic biodiversity,
    3. The impact on land and soil, crops and livestock, including through biomagnification and bioaccumulation,
    4. The adequacy of the response and any compliance action taken by the regulatory authorities in response to complaints and concerns from communities affected by mining activities,
    5. The effectiveness of the current regulatory framework in terms of monitoring, compliance, risk management and harm reduction from mining activities,
    6. The effectiveness of current decommissioning and rehabilitation practices in safeguarding human health and the environment, 
    7. The effectiveness of New South Wales Government agencies to regulate and improve outcomes including:
      • the measurement, reporting and public awareness,
      • the provision of various protective materials,
      • the ability to ensure the health of at-risk groups,
      • the suitability of work health and safety regulations, and
      • the capacity to respond within existing resources.
      • the adequacy of existing work, health and safety standards for workers,

    8. Whether the regulatory framework for heavy metals mining is fit for purpose and able to ensure that the positive and negative impacts of heavy metals and critical minerals mining on local communities, economies (including job creation) and the environment are appropriately balanced.

    9. Any other related matters.

  2. The committee reports on its findings by 21 November 2023.
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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
25 July 2023
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