South-west farmers urged to object to gold diggers

EXPLORATION permit applications to search for gold, coal and other resources across more than 1300-square-kilometres of south-west Victoria has triggered alarms in an environmental watchdog group.

Mecrus Resources has lodged requests for three districts — from Allansford to Ecklin, Broadwater to Willatook and Cobden to Simpson.

Applications with the Department of Primary Industries show the company wants to conduct soil and rock sampling and drilling to establish the presence of minerals on Crown and private land, roads and road reserves.

It lists gold, silver, platinum, mineral sands, coal (brown or black), coal bed methane and other minerals.

Public notices have been placed in The Standard this week, giving the community 21 day to lodge submissions with the department.

A decision will then be made by the state government.

Friends of The Earth, which has been involved in several campaigns to stop coal bed methane production, has urged farmers to lodge objections.

“This industry poses a real risk of chemicals being released into aquifers,” campaign co-ordinator Cam Walker said yesterday.

“Our policy is blanket opposition to coal seam gas and we would urge the farming comminity in south-west Victoria to be very cautious and to make submissions.”

Mr Walker hopes to bring the national president of the Queensland rural group Lock The Gates to western Victoria to discuss its concerns with local farmers.

Lock The Gates has taken a blocking stance to deny access to properties by companies seeking to extract methane gas.

Friends of the Earth has noticed increased interest in coal exploration from the South Australian border to Geelong and in Gippsland.

Community sentiment on coal exploration was evident at a recent meeting in Deans Marsh when a company proposing to search for coal in the Otways abandoned its plans in the face of strong opposition from local residents.

Queensland-based Mantle Mining had applied for an exploratory licence over 500 square kilometres.

pcollins@standard.fairfax.com.au

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