Compton residents have expressed outrage at Grant District Council and claim they were not consulted regarding a proposed mining expansion near their homes.
The claim comes after residents became aware an application for a mining lease had been supported ‘in principle’ by council.
Residents within the 400-metre “buffer zone” highlighted their concerns and dismay in a letter to council and subsequently made a presentation at a recent meeting with councillors and council staff.
Jim Prescott and Leighton Neill spoke on behalf of neighbouring landholders.
“It has come to the attention of the Compton landholders living around the Sandyridge mine and landfill that council gave ‘in principle’ support for the application to expand the mining operations at Sandyridge,” Mr Prescott said.
“This was made known to some of us following questions of the council’s position on the application.
“Upon further questioning of council staff, we learned the basis of council’s support was the fact that none of the exempt landholders had contacted the council to complain about the proposed expansion and relied instead on the application submitted by Tonkin consultants.”
According to the residents, the application contained numerous errors.
“One of the most glaringly offensive parts of the application was the section on consultation,” they said.
“As you should expect an application like that would paint the most positive picture of present and future operations and should be carefully examined by any entity relying on the information contained in it.”
Most of the landholders said they did not recall receiving the community newsletter claimed to have been delivered.
“Some residents were away when it was supposedly delivered and others may well have had the newsletter blown away before they had a chance to see it,” the residents said.
“However, even if you managed to find a copy of the newsletter its headline was not ‘proposed mine expansion’ or similar.
“The newsletter was a stealthy attempt to raise the issue of mine expansion so the consultation box could be ticked off the application but without actually consulting with the landholders.
“We believe council has failed in its basic duty of care to question the veracity of the application’s claims and in particular has failed to consult with the relevant landholders in regard to the proposed mine expansion.
“Any clear minded member of council or council staff should have known (the application) would be contrary to the interests of those landholders.”
Together Mr Neill and Mr Prescott reiterated the landholders were “firmly” in opposition to the expansion.
“Unless we are mistaken, council had no statutory obligation to provide in principle support for the application but chose to without informing itself,” they said.
The residents requested council immediately inform the Department of Energy and Mining that exempt landholders were aware of what was being proposed and had raised concerns.
Council was invited to undertake further consultation with landholders in the future and reserve final comment on the application until this had taken place.
“As part of the … consultation process, we request council visit landholders to see for themselves what the losses of amenity would be and consider how this would affect land values among the exempt landholdings,” the residents said.
“We want and expect there will be careful observation to appreciate the facts and real consultation in the near future.”
In addition, Mr Prescott said he could see into the Sandyridge site from his home.
“You look from our place straight in to where they are proposing to mine over the next 100 years,” he said.
“There are eight properties that are given a right under the mining act. If we say no to this going ahead there has to be negotiations between the company and us. If we cannot reach agreement then it has to go to court.
“If the court finds in favour of the company, on our title forever more will be the information that we have lost our right to say anything about that mine. That’s pretty important.
“Because the mining act gives us a particular right, I would have expected that would have been something council would have had an interest in.
“When we question council staff, we were told that no one complained about it. As far as they were concerned (residents) were good with this plan.”
Mr Prescott added that he “vaguely” remembered receiving a “soggy piece of paper” with the Sandyridge title.
“It was stuck in the gate on a wet day. I would have expected council would have taken a greater interest in this,” he said.
“Business development is good. Supporting something ‘in principle’ because business development is good when it is going to have a negative impact and potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for each one of us is a problem.
“Council could have remained silent or neutral on it, but ‘in principle’ support without ever consulting us is something everyone should reflect on.”
Council agreed to write to the DEM seeking to defer any final decision on the application.