Mine boss hits back at claims of lead dust poisoning in NSW community

Mine boss hits back at claims of lead dust poisoning in NSW community

A mining boss has hit back at claims lead dust will contaminate the environment and poison residents living near a silver, lead, and zinc mine being built in New South Wales.

Key points:

  • The managing director of Bowdens Silver says claims lead dust from the mine will threaten public health are untrue 
  • An inquiry hears the mine’s operations would shut down if too much dust was blowing off the site
  • The planning authority defends its integrity in approving mining projects

Anthony McClure from Bowdens Silver has given evidence for the first time at a NSW parliamentary inquiry examining community concerns about the company’s project at Lue near Mudgee. 

“There’s fundamentally no health issues resulting from this mine development,” Bowdens Silver’s managing director Anthony McClure told the inquiry.

“However for us to satisfy the community, we offered the opportunity of testing water tanks, of testing of people.”

The inquiry is investigating the current and potential human and environmental impacts posed by lead, silver, gold and zinc mining and the regulatory framework and monitoring governing projects.

The Bowdens Silver project was approved earlier this year.

Mr McClure told the hearing the company had several expert reports prepared, as well as agreement from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and New South Wales Health (NSW Health), that concluded any potential threats could be mitigated.

The Bowdens mine will be built 2 kilometres from Lue in the Mudgee district.(ABC Central West: Joanna Woodburn)

He said the company would pay for baseline testing to help the community gauge whether there was any elevation of heavy metals in their blood. 

“There’s nothing in those reports, and this is some of the best toxicologists, who are undertaking these studies, peer reviewed, then to NSW Health, then to EPA,’ Mr McClure said.

“None of those studies demonstrate there’s any negative health outcomes from this mine.”

Mr McClure also said that if dust emissions did exceed the permissible level, the mine would take action. 

Anthony McClure told the inquiry there were “fundamentally no health issues” posed by the Bowdens Silver mine.(ABC Central West: Mollie Gorman)

“These events can be shut-down events, so if there’s an environment where it is blowing towards the township or whatever, and there’s a whip up, [but] the opportunity of that happening in our operation is fairly limited,” he said. 

The inquiry has also heard evidence from the company behind the McPhillamys gold project which will be built at Blayney in the state’s Central West. 

Representatives from the mine’s owner, Regis Resources, told the hearing about the ways it would mitigate any impacts on nearby landowners, such as offering air conditioning, water flushing systems and tree screens. 

They said they were confident the operations would stay within the allowable limits for air quality and noise. 

Independence questioned

McPhillamys gold project has been at the centre of questioning to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), which approved the mine earlier this year.

Residents at Blayney have previously given evidence that they were disappointed none of their proposed conditions of consent were adopted by the IPC.

Doctor Peter Williams was on the IPC’s panel that assessed the project. 

“Generally we were satisfied we could find that either they were unworkable, or that they were already incorporated in draft conditions of consent, or in some cases we were able to modify some of the conditions to incorporate some of those concerns,” he told the hearing. 

The IPC’s legal director James Innes gave evidence that the commission had faced certain allegations in the past. 

“That there’s been a failure on the commission’s part to be procedurally fair [but] I’m very pleased to say that the commission has a very good record in terms of the legality of our decisions. 

“None of our decisions has been overturned on appeal, on legality, they’ve all withstood legal scrutiny.”

The Upper House committee is due to report its findings by December 15. 

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