An Exploratory Licence application for gold is with the Victorian government’s Earth Resources department for the upper Ovens Valley. The deadline for objections is 23 December. The best time to stop a destructive project is before it gets going. Please add your voice to the strong community campaign against this proposal.

Governments and companies often dismiss opposition to exploration, saying that ‘any environmental issues will be considered’ if the proposal moves toward a mining application. But the more money the miner puts into the project, the more they will push through with the proposal to commercialise. The best time to stop it is before exploration starts. And if a project has no social license to operate, why approve exploration? There is strong local opposition to gold exploration in the Upper Ovens. In a time of climate change, where water flows are expected to decline over time, the river systems that rise in the Victorian Alps will become even more important for downstream communities and environments. Why would we risk such a significant river system for short term gain for a mining company?

If this licence is approved, it will be valid for 5 years, and there is the possibility of a mining licence application if the company finds commercially viable amounts of gold. The Upper Ovens area has been devastated by large scale dredging in the past. We cannot afford the environmental damage that new mining will bring. And the noise of these operations will drive tourists away from an area that is heavily dependent on tourist spending. The Upper Ovens has excellent alluvial soils and is an important food producing area, with a strong connection to food and cultural tourism. The Upper Ovens is a thriving community that acts as a gateway to much of the high country and the ski resorts of Mt Hotham and Falls Creek.

The mining company involved is called Currawong Resources which is also involved in looking for gold in the Woodend section of the Wombat State Forest in central Victoria. This is being strongly opposed by local communities. Check here for some background information on this companies views on mining, forestry and land management.

Reasons to object

Granting an Exploration License would require the company to commit to a work plan of activity which would seek to prove that the resource was of commercial value. Some of this work would be done ‘desktop’ research, by considering previous information about mining, and the datasets held by the Victorian government. However, there would also be exploration work carried out in the area.

Drilling. The exploration process is likely to include the use of drilling rigs, which will generate substantial noise pollution. People protesting Currawong Resources drilling at Daylesford in Central Victoria (this has now stopped) report hearing a drill working 1.5 km from the centre of town. In this instance percussion drilling was used, which is very loud. 

Impacts on tourism. The effect of the noise is likely to make the area less attractive to tourists. The Great Alpine Valley communities have suffered through a summer of terrible fires, then lock downs which had enormous economic impact. The region is still in recovery. It relies on year round tourist visitation, so there is no ‘good’ time to be drilling. The licence, if granted, would be for 5 years. Approving five years of noise that will damage the appeal of the Upper Ovens as a desirable holiday location would be at odds with state government efforts to help local economies recover from fire and COVID-19. 

Potential for water contamination. Exploratory drilling can be expected to intersect with the aquifers that exist across much of the valley floor. Those aquifers help charge the Ovens River. Historical mining has left a legacy of dangerous materials like arsenic in the ground. Drilling which may cross or interact with aquifers, and therefore the Ovens River, could create the situation where these materials are re-released into the environment.  The Upper Ovens currently meets water quality standards. That could be impacted if drilling starts. 

Given the connection between aquifers and the Ovens River, any negative impact of groundwater can be expected to have impacts on downstream ecosystems. As noted by the Murray Darling Basin Authority:

‘The Ovens River is significant for its diverse aquatic habitats. It contains a range of threatened species, including fish species such as the Murray cod and the Murray spiny crayfish. It contains a range of threatened species, including fish species such as the Murray cod and the Murray spiny crayfish. The region contains numerous ‘representative’ river sites, including several important or nationally significant wetlands such as the lower reaches of the river, extending from the confluence of the Ovens and King rivers to Lake Mulwala’.

Why would we allow the prospect of mining in a headwaters section of such a significant river?

Fire risk. The north east is a very fire prone region, and the narrow nature of the valley upriver from Bright to Harrietville (and into mountain communities beyond like Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham) limits access in and out of the area should fires occur. A fire on the Valley floor will potentially be extremely dangerous, given the funnelling of prevailing summer north westerly and northerly winds, and the narrowness of the valley where drilling is proposed. Heavy equipment working in paddocks, fuel transfers, and trucks driving onto long grass in paddocks all represent an unacceptable increase in ignition risk.

Please say no to gold exploration in the Upper Ovens

We only have until close of business this wed December 23 to lodge an objection.

You can lodge an objection here.

There are a series of fields to fill in, then type, or cut and paste, your objection letter. You are objecting to EL007413.

Say who you are, where you live, what your connection to the Upper Ovens is. Add in details from above (the more you modify it, the stronger the objection).

Please check the group No Gold Drilling for the Ovens Valley for further ideas on what you can do to help stop this unwanted project.

Extra detail on the application can be found here.