Contributed from Western Australia
The residents of Williamstown, a settlement within the Kalgoorlie-boulder region in Western Australia, are standing up to defend their homes and community. The threat comes from mining company KCGM. It is carrying out regular blasting, in order to get at a valuable deposit of gold.
Many of the residents have lived here for a long time. This is where family is. In any case, they can’t sell their properties and the company won’t buy them out. Residents at the nearby indigenous settlement insist that they are not going to move out under any circumstances.
High levels of dust are being created and properties are being damaged. Walls are damaged and floors crack. The mine is also the world’s biggest emitter of mercury. This poses a serious risk to the water table and food chain. People had had enough.
They are a small community of about 132 people, and they insist that the mining company is killing off Williamstown. Other settlements within the immediate area are also under threat.
The blasting is associated with the Super Pit, which is primed to become the biggest open cut gold mine in the world, and big enough to fit two Eiffel towers end to end. A high price for gold is driving the expansion. The mine has been drawing in almost $1 billion in profit every year, without the expansion.
This American and Denver based company, is the largest employer in the surrounding region and has a dominating influence on everyday life, from community programs to local politics.
Locals say it puts its profits ahead of people’s livelihoods. The guidelines in Western Australia say that there is supposed to be a buffer of at least 1500 metres between operations and homes. This operation is encroaching within 200 metres, and nothing is being done about it, because of an anomaly. Homes in this part of the world are note in areas zoned as residential.
The expansion has been approved by the West Australian Environmental Protection Agency. Locals say the Agency has a poor record of protecting citizens. For example, it approved the shipping of lead through Esperance in the state’s south coast and ignored the threat to the local environment.
KCGM has been able to get the Agency to vary the noise regulations for the mine. Little notice was taken of the health impact, according to locals. Noise levels at all hours exceed the allowed 51 decibels, according to the company’s own records, and this is never policed. The reason? A ministerial agreement was made before the current regulations came into effect in 1997.
According to resident Dianne Mills, the company makes a massive financial contribution to the economy and state coffers made it appear untouchable.
This may be a difficult battle, but it goes on. Those whose homes are threatened have no other choice.