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No Mines In Mount Lofty Watershed

9 February 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak on the Mining (Prohibition of Mining in Mount Lofty Ranges Watershed) Amendment Bill. This bill seeks to prohibit mining operations in the Mount Lofty Ranges, which would have a direct impact on the controversial proposal to establish a gold mine at the Bird in Hand site.

Farmers and locals of Woodside have been fighting against the establishment of the Terramin gold mine for years. The project proposes to reopen an old flooded gold mine on a plot of land next to the Bird in Hand Winery; 130 years ago, when the miners hit water, the flooding was a sentence for abandonment. In the time since that closure the surrounding area has become one of South Australia's most productive and vital farming areas. This area has seen the growth of generations of family businesses, which now produce hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for our state every year.

Contained in the area is also the headwaters for Onkaparinga River, which provides 60 per cent of Adelaide's water supply. This region rests on a fractured rock aquifer system that provides the water needed to sustain agricultural activity. With no mains water available, households are also dependent on the aquifer for their domestic purposes. Terramin will need to mine through this aquifer if they want to extract the gold. They propose tunnelling 450 metres deep, blasting directly under vines, wine-making and tourism infrastructure, and close to homes.

This proposed mine, which is set to open for only five years, will be operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, creating noise pollution, dust and a drastic increase in traffic movements per day. Most importantly, despite Terramin's reassurances, there is simply no way that they can ensure the health of this critical aquifer. Terramin's basic proposal is that they will need to pump out 400 megalitres of groundwater around their mine shaft to keep it dry, which they plan to treat and reinject at high pressure back underground.

Forcing a megalitre of water every day into a basin type aquifer is achievable, but fractured rock aquifers are very fragile and they are complex systems. It is almost impossible to know what is going on underground and where the water may end up. Rates of groundwater movement in fractured rock systems are incredibly difficult to quantify and any modelling relies on generalisations which prevent certainty. This raises serious questions and concerns about water levels and salinity.

Within five kilometres of the mine, there is a variety of crops and farming land. This includes strawberries, apples, wine grapes, but also beef, sheep, alpacas and horse studs. This mine represents a huge threat to the people in the area and their industries, to their businesses who are forecast to generate more than $800 million over the five-year lifespan of the mine, while employing over 800 people.

That is $800 million of revenue being put at risk, 800 jobs being put at risk, not to mention the viability of our farming land, our wine region and some of our pristine environment. Those people, those businesses, are the future of that region, not a nearsighted mining project. What projections exist then for the community against this project? What confidence can the community have that they are going to be protected and that these vital industries, industries that are so important to our state's economy, are protected?

During the recent review of South Australia's Mining Act, SA farmers lobbied very hard to get access provisions changed to provide greater protection for landowners and cultivated land from intrusive exploration and extractive mining. This, sadly, was to no avail. Their concerns and recommendations have been completely ignored by the Marshall government. Instead the government, with support of the opposition, endorsed new measures making it easier for miners to get access to cultivated land. That is an outrage.

The act is set up to benefit and preference the mining industry and not those who have been living on and using this land for generations. It is designed to facilitate mining. It is designed to facilitate private takeovers of public land and land that could be used to the benefit of all South Australians. Why on earth would we allow this risk to be taken with one of the most productive areas in the Hills? Why would we put the future of the Adelaide Hills wine region in doubt, with millions and millions of dollars of annual farmgate turnover at risk if this mine is given the green light?

It is time that this parliament took a clear stance against vested interests and stood up to these large corporations who are devouring our landscape. It is time for this parliament to say, 'Enough is enough.' It is time to back off and put the rights of farmers and small businesses and our environment first, not the vested interests of big polluters and those that seek to exploit our environment.

We are facing an economic crisis. We have talked a lot about that over the last few days following the decision of the Liberal Party to open up our state borders with woefully inadequate planning. We have seen an economic catastrophe befall our state, a huge hit on our economy and so many businesses struggling.

The last thing they need is more uncertainty, the last thing we need are other industries that provide such an important boost for our economy being put at risk because we are seeing the interests of large corporations being put ahead of the interests of the community. At this time of economic crisis, we simply cannot afford to take that risk. The Liberals have been reckless enough with our economy over the last few months and we cannot allow them to trash our farmland as well. I encourage all members of this place, including the Labor opposition, to show some backbone on this issue and to support the Greens' bill.