The New South Wales government and opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) are facing accusations of concealing health risks associated with heavy metals mining. The chair of a parliamentary inquiry expressed strong criticism of the findings in the inquiry’s report.

Key points from the report indicate that both government and opposition MPs are alleged to have censored the report on a heavy metals inquiry. Greens MPs claim that several proposed recommendations were rejected by both Labor and Liberal members during the voting process.

The report, part of a state parliamentary inquiry into the current and potential impacts of lead, gold, silver, and zinc mines in NSW, was released recently. The Upper House committee, consisting of Labor, Liberal, Nationals, and Greens Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs), made eight findings. These conclusions emphasize the significance of metalliferous mining in the state’s transition to net zero and Australia’s sovereign capability.

Despite the findings supporting the regulatory framework’s fundamental soundness, committee meeting minutes reveal changes made to a recommendation initially criticizing the assessment and approvals process as “not fit for purpose,” which was altered to claim it was “fundamentally sound.”

Dr. Amanda Cohn, the committee chair and Greens MLC, expressed disappointment, dissenting from the report, highlighting the contrast between the findings and the evidence gathered over months with over 200 submissions.

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The minutes further unveil that Labor and Liberal members voted to exclude specific details and proposed recommendations, particularly those addressing witnesses’ serious health concerns and the efficacy of the regulatory framework.

Dr. Cohn, who spoke with witnesses expressing health fears related to mines, criticized the exclusion of an entire chapter on mine site rehabilitation, suggesting a commitment to business-as-usual in the sector.

Fellow Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann labeled the findings a “political hatchet job” and rejected them, asserting that the report was sabotaged by government members attempting to conceal the truth. She emphasized the report’s downplaying of contamination issues near the Cadia gold mine.

The inquiry, triggered by concerns from residents near the Cadia gold mine and opposition to a recently approved lead, zinc, and silver mine near Mudgee, has faced criticism for not delivering recommendations leading to substantive and lasting change.

The Cadia Community Sustainability Network (CCSN) criticized the inquiry’s failure to provide impactful recommendations, urging state politicians to recognize the mining sector’s responsibility for the health, safety, and environment of its stakeholders.

Residents near Lue remain skeptical of assurances from Bowdens Silver, the mining project owner, and state authorities regarding potential adverse health and environmental impacts. The report’s findings, described as the “worst case scenario” by residents, have been accused of being watered down, raising suspicions of committee members influencing the outcome.

Witnesses like Susannah White and Jade Miskle expressed concerns about lead dust from the Bowdens silver mine affecting residents’ health. The inquiry’s recommendations include calls for increased resources for the NSW Environment Protection Authority and NSW Resources Regulator, along with considerations for higher penalties for specific environmental breaches.

The NSW government is expected to respond to the report in approximately three months.


Australia sees 5.6% rise in mining investment

The primary catalyst for a modest expansion in the overall new capital expenditure (capex) in Australia, as per official records, was the mining sector.

In the third quarter (Q3) of 2023, mining capex witnessed a 5.6-point increase, counterbalancing a 1.3% decline in industries outside of mining, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Q3 2023 saw an aggregate capex growth of 0.6%, marking a 10.7% surge compared to the corresponding period last year.

Robert Ewing, the ABS head of business statistics, pointed out that a 5.4% rise in investments for building and structures could be attributed to the mining sector. He explained, “This industry augmented its expenditure on iron-ore projects and developments related to battery minerals. However, this was mitigated by a downturn in non-mining industries, decreasing by 2.2%.

Ewing emphasized that the construction sector played a pivotal role in the upswing of equipment and machinery capex, witnessing a remarkable 15% expansion. This growth was facilitated by the alleviation of supply chain disruptions, enabling businesses to receive new vehicles and heavy machinery promptly.


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