Community protests against mineral exploration in Lerderderg State Forest – ABC News

Central Victorian residents say hearing loud noises from Lerderderg State Park is how they learned of mineral exploration being undertaken in the region.

More than 90 people from Blackwood, east of Daylesford, have formed an activist group, called No Wombat Gold, in response to the activity near Shaw’s Lake.

“As far as we can ascertain, it’s Currawong Resources that have commenced exploration up in that area,” group spokeswoman Fiona Ross said.

“There’s been no communication whatsoever.

“They’re allowed to do what they’re doing, but their environmental and community policy specifically states they are committed to communicating with landholders and stakeholders who are going to be affected by exploration activities.”

Blackwood residents have formed an opposition group called No Wombat Gold.(Supplied: Sandy Scheltema)

More than 20 residents attended the site earlier this week in protest; Phaedra Morris said she was concerned by the lack of information.

“We don’t have a lot of facts, we don’t know how they’re going to mine there, what the effect on the environment is going to be,” she said.

“I contacted Currawong Resources, who we believe are doing the test drilling, but they denied [it].”

Currawong Resources has declined to comment. Its parent company, Fosterville South Exploration, has been contacted by the ABC.

‘Home to rare and threatened species’

Ms Ross said the impact industrial mining would have on the small community was unthinkable.

“There’s huge renewed interest in gold mining in Blackwood and all the surrounding areas,” she said.

“It’s no secret they’re looking for another Fosterville, which is Victoria’s largest gold-producing mine.”

Ms Ross said the area was popular with day-trippers from Melbourne, and for that to continue, the environment would need to be preserved.

Any disruption to the water supply, flora and fauna would be devastating, she added.

“We want to protect the environment. We’re talking about Wombat State Forest and the Lerderderg State Forest, that are home to rare and threatened species of animals and plant life — we’ve got greater gliders, we’ve got powerful owls.”

Activists are concerned about the impacts on places like the Wombat State Forest.(Supplied: Sandy Scheltema)

National park recommended for region

The exploration is believed to be taking place in areas recently investigated by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC).

The organisation is tasked with conducting investigations requested by the State Government about the protection and sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.

A report relating to the Central West was tabled in June 2019 and a response from Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio was due in February this year.

The report said there might be undetected gold deposits.

It also recommended new or expanded national parks be declared in much of the region, including over the existing Lerderderg State Park where the exploration is understood to be taking place.

The national parks were recommended to protect the “water catchments and headwaters and high-value habitat for rare and threatened species”.

A spokesperson for the Government said it would respond to VEAC’s report later in the year due to delays caused by the bushfires and coronavirus.

Ms Morris said it was counterintuitive to be drilling in a region that could potentially become a national park.