Monday, 25th February, 2019
By Callum Marshall
AusGold Mining Group has been ordered to suspend all operations at its Good Friday Gold Mine near Tibooburra after the Department of Planning and Environment’s Resources Regulator found several problems on site.
The decision concerns the illegal construction of a dam, the discovery of 25 dead kangaroos stuck in sediment storage, and the failure to notify the department about receiving written consent to suspend mining operations.
These discoveries were all breaches of the Mining Act, and related to a failure to comply with a Mining Operations Plan (MPO), notify and report environmental incidents and notify suspension of operations, respectively.
On the matter of the dam, during an inspection of the site on September 5 last year, the regulator noted that a ‘slimes (sediment) storage dam (had been) constructed within the corridor of an ephemeral watercourse’ that went against the site’s approved MPO.
The report also noted that “the inspection ... identified more than 25 kangaroos that had become trapped in the slimes and died.
In addition, a joey kangaroo was seen trapped in the slimes and in distress.
“No action was taken to assist the kangaroo due to safety risks,” the report said.
In response to a statutory notice sent to AusGold on September 27, company representative Luming Liu said between April 17 and July 31, four kangaroos were rescued from a tailings dam but they did not survive.
“A total of six kangaroos drowned and were left in the tailings dam. It was too dangerous to recover the bodies,” he said.
“The company was not aware of the obligation of reporting such a situation.”
The site inspection also discovered that mining operations had been suspended since July 2018.
The report noted that “a review of Departmental records found no application had ever been made by AusGold to obtain written consent to suspend mining operations in accordance with clause 7A of Schedule 1B of the (Mining) Act”
The Regulator also noted that AusGold failed to appoint a ‘technically competent person’ and failed to ‘demonstrate financial capacity to comply with the Mining Act.’
On the issues of finance, the regulator was advised on September 5 that AusGold staff had not been paid for three months and that the company owed ‘significant amounts of money to business across the region’.
In response to the financial issues Mr Liu wrote: “China implemented significant changes to its Foreign Exchange Control policies earlier this year, which has made it more difficult and time-consuming to transfer money from China to overseas.”
On the matter of having a ‘technically competent person’ on site, the report noted that performance assessers were advised that all the mine’s expert personnel and key staff, including the GM and executive team, had either been laid off or were no longer employed.
The suspension of the Good Friday Mine follows years of controversy surrounding AusGold Mining Group and the Good Friday mine, including workers launching legal action for unpaid wages and the bizarre discovery that owner Sally Zou had been paying workers with backpacks full of cash.
The company could now be fined more than $1 million for their breaches of the Mining Act.
In response to questions sent to sally Zou’s representative, AusGold Media, stated that “the Good Friday Mine site has been inoperative since August last year due to a technical issue in the gold extraction that must be resolved before the operation can recommence.
“AusGold will work closely with the regulator to ensure it is entirely compliant with all its obligations with a view to recommence operation when the technical issues have been resolved.”