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A mining company had big plans for this NT town, until locals pushed back

A mining company had big plans for this NT town, until locals pushed back

Gold mining company Bacchus Resources has withdrawn a mineral exploration licence application for a Top End township after community backlash.

Key points:

  • Bacchus Resources were seeking a gold mining exploration license
  • The application was withdrawn after pushback from Adelaide River community members
  • Rock chips samples in the area suggest there could be further mining interest

A community meeting was held on Sunday in which 50 residents from Adelaide River, 100 kilometres south of Darwin, gathered to discuss the prospect of mining exploration on their doorstep.

In March they had received notice from Bacchus Resources that it was seeking an exploration licence, covering 108 square kilometres immediately surrounding the township.

The exploration licence application was for six years, and included the possibility of drilling.

Residents were concerned the drilling would affect their property values and bore water security.

At Sunday’s meeting, Adelaide River community members were geared up for a fight.

Around 50 Adelaide River residents attended the community meeting.(ABC News: Dane Hirst)

“We’ve just got to write letters to the minister, get all the petitions all sorted out, we’ve got over 100 already. And that’s only a couple of days,” resident Angeline “Grub” Sollitt said.

“We’ve got to get it out there. And just keep going. We’re going to fight this all the way.”

“They’re putting a value of this property of basically two thirds of what the property was 10 years ago when we brought it,” resident Andy May said.

“So they’re saying our property has decreased in value, even though we’ve put a house on it, put a bore on it, put power on it, put water on, septic on it, done more fencing, done more improvements, apparently, the value of our property has dropped.

“Our bores aren’t that deep, they’ll go down to bedrock, at least for their core drill looking for gold.

“They’ll be drilling into the water table so we need to look at baseline testing for all our bores, just to make sure that our flows stay the same, that there’s no chemicals or anything else get put into the water system.”

In the end, it wasn’t a long fight.

Bacchus Resources withdrew its application on Wednesday, two weeks after public notice of proposed exploration had been issued.

The company’s chief geologist and executive David Ward said in a statement that he had received correspondence from several landowners which was both “positive and negative”.

“Bacchus reviewed all available information and on balance decided to withdraw that application area,” he said.

Mr Ward would not comment on whether the decision to withdraw was based on community objections.

On hearing of the withdrawal, Ms Sollitt said it was the best news she’d ever heard.

“I’m speechless,” she said.

“I’m just so glad Bacchus has withdrawn. I’m really, really happy. And I thank them for that. I really do.”

She said between Sunday’s meeting and the company’s decision to withdraw on Wednesday she had sent emails to the mining company and the office of Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Manison.

“I have not been off my computer — writing emails, sending out forms, all that sort of stuff, just getting the public behind us,” she said.

“That’s what my drive was … because there were people out there that cared and they were concerned about what’s going on.

“We do have a voice when we all join together.”

Residents told to ‘go hard, go early’

Speaking at Sunday’s meeting at the invitation of organisers, Naish Gawen of the NT Environment Centre said “people power” could be just as powerful as the mining industry.

“That’s about people coming to meetings like this, and doing the pressure that you’re all starting to get involved in,” he said.

Naish Gawen from the Environment Centre NT says grassroots community engagement can be powerful.(ABC News: Dane Hirst)

Mr Gawen said Bacchus Resources’s decision was an example of what grassroots campaigns could achieve.

“I think it was really clear that this exploration licence application was very unpopular with people whose blocks the notice was served on,” he said.

“So they started getting organised really early on, to voice those objections.

“The fact that people are standing together, getting organised in order to oppose these licences, is something I think that the company decided was going to make their life too difficult.”

Not the end of mining interest in Adelaide River

Adelaide River is located about an hour south of Darwin City.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

According to information sent to residents by Bacchus, the proposed exploration area was just south of a significant gold prospect dubbed “H22” — an extension of known gold deposits in the Pine Creek area.

While the proposed Adelaide River exploration area did not include the H22 prospect, Bacchus had told residents its application area presented “a great opportunity for further discovery in an area with minimal regional exploration”.

The H22 prospect is covered by an exploration licence held by Australian Mining and Gemstone Co and has returned rock chip samples that suggest it could be economically mined.

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