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Authorities will be under pressure to upgrade and maintain road and rail infrastructure across the Wimmera to cope with predicted mining development north of Horsham.
Housing availability is also vital to ensuring the project’s success.
Leaders behind a WIM Resource Avonbank Project near Dooen expect 60 trucks would be moving material in and out of the mine site each day when running at its full capacity.
Expectations are a total of 1000 people would be employed every year over the project’s 30-year life cycle from across Victoria as a result of the project and on-site accommodation might be required during a construction phase to ‘alleviate pressure’ on the Horsham housing market. The mining company is looking to secure finances to proceed, based on a feasibility study, before the end of the year.
WIM Resources completed a rehabilitation phase of the project on an Avonbank test pit to ensure land could be reused for agricultural production as part of the study. This contributed towards gaining State Government approval through an Environmental Effects Statement, EES.
Project leaders have marked 2023 for mining operations to start.
Director Michael Winternitz said housing availability for the project’s workforce in the Wimmera was a major factor the mining company was closely monitoring as part of its feasibility study.
“We recognise Horsham does have a bit of a rental shortage and local government recognises that as well,” he said.
“We will be exploring all options to alleviate pressure that might put on us and Horsham community.
“For the construction phase, we’re looking to employ a couple of hundred people, and we feel the requirement to have temporary accommodation on site to reduce the housing pressures that exist in Horsham might be a good option.”
However, Mr Winternitz said about 60 percent of the workforce would be people who already lived in the Wimmera.
“There will be a significant amount of people we will look to employ locally, who therefore won’t be impacting on housing and rentals,” he said.
He said he was hopeful additional housing would become available as the project progressed into its later stages.
Mr Winternitz said expectations were that mining would extract 500,000 tonnes of mineral sands such as zircon, rare earth and titanium-rich mineral concentrate from the site each year.
RARING TO GO: WIM Resource project director Michael Winternitz, left, and mining engineer Jarrod Pye at the Avonbank test site at Dooen. Picture: PAUL CARRACHERHe said he hoped the rail network would improve before the mine was fully operational.
“We’ve got the rail here accessible on site, however, there are issues with the existing infrastructure,” he said.
“The line from Maroona to Portland hasn’t been upgraded by state or federal governments, so to start with we will be putting the product on road.
“We’re currently doing our traffic-impact study as part of the EES and we estimate there could be about 30 trucks, or 60 a day when you consider the round trip.”
Predictions are that Avonbank mine will generate millions of dollars for the Horsham district economy.
It is one of four of the world’s largest proposed sand-mining projects within a 70-kilometre radius of Horsham.
“During a good year of crop harvest everyone is happy, but in a bad year the economy seems to suffer, so this project will hopefully help diversify the profile of the economy and provide a bit of stability,” Mr Winternitz said.
“It will also help lower the unemployment rate.”
Mr Winternitz said the company planned to employ a broad range of skillsets including machinery operators, electricians, plumbers, fitter and turners and boilermakers, which would be the key trades.
“We also plan to employ geologists, engineers, surveyors, environmental scientists and rehabilitation specialists,” he said. “And, hopefully young people see they have a 30-year project right at their doorstep, rather than moving to the city to earn a relatively good income and improve their skillset, they have a project here – if they’re willing to train up.”
Mr Winternitz said another key part of the project was minimising environmental impact on the site to ensure farming and mining could co-exist.
“We haven’t created huge changes in the topography out here as we discovered through our test pit and have kept all of our top-soil and sub-soil separate to make sure, when we put it back, the landowner can grow a crop again,” he said.
“A key difference to us and a coal mine is that we don’t end up with a gaping hole at the end – we’re constantly rehabilitating and the reason we do that is because we want to return the land to the farmer as quickly as possible.”
The mining company will seek public review of the project after the EES and feasibility study are completed later this year.
This article first appeared on theweeklyadvertiser.com.au
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