July marked the end of the public inquiry into the environmental effects of the proposed Fingerboards mineral sands mine.  

The Fingerboards mineral sands mine is a proposal by Kalbar Operations Pty Ltd to construct a 1,675 hectare open cut mineral sands mine 20km north west of Bairnsdale, East Gippsland.  

The proposed mine is adjacent to the heritage listed Mitchell River which flows into the Gippsland Lakes (wetlands of international significance under the Ramsar Convention). It is also immediately upwind of the Lindenow Valley, a prime vegetable growing area.  

The community is deeply concerned about the proposed mine for many reasons, including contamination of waterways, excessive extraction of water (impacting the nearby horticultural industry), risks associated with the particular landscape proposed to be mined (i.e. the soils are highly erosive and prone to collapse), risks from exposure to nasty toxics (including radiation), loss of more than 200 hectares of endangered and vulnerable native vegetation, and general dislocation from a community and landscape that they love and call home. 

The Environment Effects Statement (EES) for the project was first released for public comment in early September 2020, with the Inquiry and Advisory Committee commencing its public hearings in early May 2021. 

EJA lawyers have represented community group Mine-Free Glenaladale throughout the environmental effects process. With the pro bono assistance of barrister Emily Porter, the legal team cross-examined the proponent’s experts at the public hearings, led evidence from eight independent experts on the topics of ecology, hydrogeology, economics, radiation, health, tailings, centrifugation and rehabilitation, and made oral and written submissions to make the case that the environmental effects of the project are unacceptable.  

The Written Submissions made on behalf of Mine-Free Glenaladale are available online (Part APart B and Part C).  The Oral Submissions made on behalf of Mine-Free Glenaladale are available online (Opening Submission start at 2:23:10, Substantive Submission start at 1:59:20, Closing Submission start at 1:45:50).  

The Inquiry and Advisory Committee will now prepare its report for the Minister for Planning, the Hon Richard Wynne MP. The Minister’s Assessment of the acceptability of the environmental effects of the project is due to be released by 25 October 2021.