South Australia approved on Tuesday the application by miner Rex Minerals to construct an $800 million copper, gold and iron ore mine on prime agricultural estate in the Yorke Peninsula.
Rex Minerals is currently conducting a bankable feasibility study on the Hillside copper project, located northwest of Adelaide.
Aware of potential objection from residents which could delay the venture, Rex Minerals Managing Director Mark Parry said the company is engaging with the community while preparing for construction. The miner is required to meet several conditions and strike the right balance between economic and environmental priorities, said SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis.
This early, the Yorke Peninsula Landholders group had aired their opposition to the mine because of their perception that Rex and the SA government had not addressed their concerns.
"We've certainly put all our points across, whether it's fallen on deaf ears or not. As far as contaminating crops around the area with dust that's going to fall out or contamination of the Gulf, we haven't had any word of what steps are going to be taken," The Australian quoted Stephen Lodge from the Landholders group.
Mark Parnell of the Greens Party also sided with the residents, describing the approval as a blow to local farmers who are concerned about water contamination, wind-blown dust and radiation from the upcoming mine.
In defense of the approval, the treasurer said, "A new copper, gold and iron ore mine is good news for South Australia and has the potential to create hundreds of jobs for the region over the 15-year life of the mine ... The lease approval is a major step towards delivering this project, and demonstrates that the Hillside mine can be operated in an environmentally responsible manner.".
The mine is estimated to be one kilometer wide, two kilometres long and 500 metres deep in one of the largest open pit copper reserves in Australia.
Parry said Rex conducted extensive public consultation on the mine with the community. It has 12 months to develop a Program for Environment Protection and Rehabilitation to be approved by the SA government. The mine is expected to pay up to $30 million a year royalties to SA and create up to 500 jobs during the construction phase.
The SA action came amid fears expressed by mining executives of very low or zero growth for the mining industry.