The operator of Ballarat’s last remaining gold mine has gone into administration after a string of setbacks in production.
- Union organisers were hopeful there would be no job losses as a result of the process
- The mine recently ceased gold production after its tailings dam reached capacity
- Production resumed last month, leading to hopes the company could service its debts
The company has appointed Hall Chadwick to oversee the administration process.
Singapore-based company Shen Yao Holdings owns Balmaine Gold, which employs more than 300 people.
Workplace regulator WorkSafe has previously issued the company two improvement notices, including one finding the mine manager “does not meet the industry accepted requirements in terms of experience and qualifications”.
Australian Workers Union organiser for the mine Ross Kenna said workers had been told of the administration on Thursday evening.
“We’ve had a lot of issues in there for about 19, 20 months,” he said.
“There’s a lot of fear in the workforce whenever anything like this happens. The workers are very scared the mine won’t be there.”
The mine recently had to cease gold production after its tailings dam reached capacity
But Mr Kenna said production at the mine had resumed in the past month and workers were hopeful the mine’s fortunes would turn.
“They do blame the previous administration, not the current administration, who are doing all they can to right the ship,” he said.
“The mine believes they will be able to trade out of it, that they are making enough money to cover their loans.”
Council application delayed
The company applied to the City of Ballarat to build a new tailings dam to store waste from its production late last year.
Batalie Robertson from the council’s Development and Growth Department said the company was yet to notify it of recent changes.
“The City of Ballarat has not been contacted by any parties connected to the Ballarat Gold Mine since it entered administration,” she said.
“The planning application for the development of a new tailings storage facility at the Ballarat Gold Mine remains an active application.”
She said outstanding paperwork on the application for the new tailings dam were the cause of its delay.
“A Health Impact Assessment from the applicant, required as part of the planning process, is yet to be submitted,” Ms Robertson said.
Retired mine engineer and Bendigo and District Environment Council member Ian Magee said he believed a sale of the mine to another operator was unlikely.
He said a lot of companies had gone through the site over the past decade and regulators had never been happy with its environmental performance.
“It would be difficult now to find a company in Australia that would would look at taking over the company if it hasn’t had a sustainable record of gold production,” Mr Magee said.
“Your community may find itself now left with an abandoned toxic waste site that nobody wants.”
A Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report tabled in 2020 found the state’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions was not effectively regulating the operators’ compliance with its rehabilitation responsibilities.
“The bond processes failed [in] that there’s never been a goldmine in Victoria, that’s been rehabilitated in the last several decades,” Mr Magee said.
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