Six key questions from the Regis Resources community meeting on McPhillamys Gold Mine

The packed house at the Regis meeting on Thursday night.
The packed house at the Regis meeting on Thursday night.

The Blayney Chronicle went along to Thursday night's meeting where Regis addressed the community about some of the concerns around the project.

We've taken some of the bigger, more recurring questions and Regis' answers down below. It's by no means an exhaustive list from the two hours of questions and hour-long presentation, but will provide a good grounding in what's going on and what Regis says will take place at Kings Plains.

What is the project? Who is Regis?

McPhillamys Gold Mine is a proposed gold mine by Regis Resources, a mining company which specialises in gold mining. It currently has three gold mines in central Western Australia. This would be its first project in NSW.

The entire gold production process will take place at the plant, from extracting the ore down to smelting it into gold bars. There is about two million ounces of gold at the Kings Plains location where Regis is proposing to run an open-cut mine, which will be extracted over 10 years.

The project is expected to last for 15 years, with construction and clean-up to take place on either side of the 10-year mining period.

MAP: Where the project will take place ...

What's the process? How soon are they starting construction? 

The mine still has many steps to go through before the first sod can be turned. Regis Resources is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement, which states what they plan to do and the affect it will have on the Belubula River, nearby properties and a whole range of other factors.

It will submitted to the NSW government Department of Planning in about a month, and will then be assessed by independent experts. They will take three or four weeks to look over the report before putting it on community display in early August.

Submissions will be open for at least 42 days for community feedback, while more public meetings are held. All in all, should the project be approved construction won't begin for another 12 to 18 months.

How many jobs will be created by the project?

A slideshow from Regis said 1289 jobs would be created during the "peak construction time" of the project, with 788 jobs projected over the life of the 10-year project.

However, only 300 to 350 of those jobs will be directly employed at the McPhillamy project, with the rest coming from additional services to service the mine and mine workers, and after requests for clarification Regis Resources manager of special projects for NSW Tony McPaul confirmed only 78 jobs would come from people living in the Blayney Local Government area.

We'll be doing what we can, we're not trying to pretend what happens while we're here will happen forever.

Regis general manager Jim Beyer

However, Mr McPaul said Regis would be working with local tertiary and secondary education providers to help increase that numbers, and said the company would be trying to build up as many local connections and businesses as they could to engage with the local economy.

While Regis Resources general manager Jim Beyer said it was "unrealistic" to expect the level of economic activity to last beyond the 10-year lifespan of the project, he said the company was committed to being involved in the Blayney economy and helping companies plan long-term, but didn't specify any specific policies or examples.

"We'll be doing what we can, we're not trying to pretend what happens while we're here will happen forever," Mr Beyer said.

What about the water impact? 

Water is proving to be one of the biggest concerns around the McPhillamy Mine project, with the proposed location sitting at the headwaters of the Belubula River.

Regis' modelling said there will be a four per cent decrease of water flow into Carcoar Dam, with a nine per cent decrease of water flow where the Belubula crosses under the Mid-Western Highway.

That reduced flow is due to Regis permanently blocking springs at the site which flow into the Belubula, and also takes into account water which lands on the site and is unable to be released due to contamination.

The company has applied for an unregulated water license, which is the name given to licenses issued above dams such as Carcoar Dam. Company representatives could not confirm what impact the four per cent flow would have on water licenses downstream.

However, Regis is hoping to bring in all its required water through an 80km pipeline from Lithgow, which will be placed underground to bring in water required for the project. That pipeline has the potential to be operational beyond the life of the project.

Regis manager of special projects for NSW Tony McPaul said the project "doesn't need local water".

He also addressed concerns around groundwater contamination, with gold mining using cyanide in the extraction process.

He said there were less than 50 parts per metre cubed of cyanide, which would break down in the tailings dam, but when Mr McPaul was asked if he was 100 per cent sure there would be no contamination, he said "no-one can give a 100 per cent guarantee of anything".

How much dust will be kicked up off the mine and tailings dams? How loud will it be? 

Dust being blown off the tailings dams and the mine is a big concern for residents, especially those who have experienced dust being blown off the dams at Cadia.

It wasn't a subject which was given a great deal of attention on Thursday night, with a lot of questions directed towards water security and groundwater contamination, but Mr McPaul did touch on it during his presentation during the first hour.

What's the deal with Discovery Hill? 

Regis has conducted exploratory work at Discovery Hill, which is on the southern side of Mandurama. There has been concern from residents this project could be tacked on to the back of the McPhillamys mine, but at this stage Regis said they still don't know if they'll go ahead with the project.

In any case, it would be subject to a different application process and will not be included in the McPhillamys project.