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How is exploration for minerals regulated in Victoria?

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Minerals exploration and mining in Victoria are governed under a legal regulatory framework, which is designed to ensure community interests and the environment are safeguarded. The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) serves as the exploration and mining regulator on behalf of the Minister for Resources and oversees administration of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990. The Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 establishes the legal framework to ensure that any risks posed by minerals exploration to the environment, or to land, property or infrastructure are identified and eliminated or appropriately managed.

What is the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990?

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Is an act of law that governs the exploration, mining, and extractive industries in Victoria. The purpose of the MRSDA is to encourage economically viable mining and extractive industries which make the best use of resources in a way that is compatible with the economic, social, and environmental objectives of the State. The act is regularly amended and updated to reflect changing attitudes within the Victorian community.

What is meant by Low Impact Exploration?

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Low impact exploration activities within a granted Exploration Licence have low social and environmental impacts. Before low impact exploration can be carried out on an exploration licence, SXG ensures all the required public liability insurance policies are in place, that environmental bonds have been paid and landowner and/or occupiers’ consents are in place.

Mineral exploration programs typically begin with an initial low impact exploration phase in which large areas are explored to identify unique small target areas. These low impact activities can include geophysical surveys, geological mapping, and selective drilling. All of SXG’s exploration activities adhere to, and are governed by, the Victorian Government’s Code of Practice for Mineral Exploration. A copy of the code is available here.

At the Sunday Creek Goldfield we are using innovative non-ground disturbing technology to carry out three different types of geophysical surveys. These surveys help us to ascertain whether the rocks within the abandoned goldfield have potential for hosting additional gold resources by looking at the rocks’ magnetic, electrical, and gravitational (or density) signatures. These surveys are carried out by local Victorian companies and a majority of the survey is performed by operators on foot. We then combine data from these surveys with geological mapping and historic production reports from the abandoned mines, obtained from the department of Earth Resources, to target selective diamond drill holes.

Our drill program at Sunday Creek has been designed to have minimal impact on the environment and the surrounding community. We are using a local drilling company based in Heathcote to complete a diamond drilling program using specially designed light weight, low noise, rubber mounted track rigs. All the drilling is completed on or adjacent to existing tracks so that no clearing of vegetation is required. Also, we only drill during daylight hours from Monday to Friday to minimise any disturbance to the surrounding landholders. At the end of the project all drill holes will be rehabilitated so that no trace of the drilling will be seen.

All staff and contractors working on our exploration tenements are mindful of minimising their impact on the environment and we ensure that no littering occurs and that all waste is removed from the site. It is our intention that there is a high-level of communication with any and all nearby landowners, and that they need to be happy and satisfied that the property is left with the least amount of impact as possible.

​Does exploration always mean a mine?

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The likelihood of exploration activity leading to an operating mine is very low. It is estimated that for every 300-1000 exploration projects, only one mine is developed (source: Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, Inquiry into greenfields minerals exploration and project development in Victoria – Final report, Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne, 2012, p. 10).

An exploration licence does not permit the explorer to mine for minerals, nor does it guarantee that a mining licence will be granted over the licence area. For exploration to be undertaken on a licence, the explorer is required to comply with more than 20 laws which are designed to protect the environment, Indigenous heritage, non-Indigenous heritage, water, land, Native Title, flora and fauna, biodiversity, water catchment and communities.

If a viable resource is identified, the average time between exploration and mining commencement is between 10 and 15 years. This is due to the need for detailed geological studies over vast areas to identify an economic mineral resource, high development costs and stringent approval processes.

​What is Diamond Drilling?

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Diamond drilling uses a diamond impregnated drill bit to produce cores or “sticks” of rock from small diameter holes (less than 96 mm in diameter). These cores give the geologist the maximum amount of information about the rock and the structures associated with any gold mineralisation with minimal impact on the environment. All holes are completely rehabilitated at the end of a drilling program.

Will Southern Cross Gold’s exploration impact on my farming activities?

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Victorian licence conditions require SXG to minimise disturbance to a landholder, by ensuring that:

  • exploration is timed to minimise disturbance to stock and/or crops, where practical;
  • all reasonable steps are taken to inform the landowner of any possible disturbance to crops/stock and their protection of potential hazards;
  • all gates will be left as found;
  • all reasonable measures will be taken to minimise the spread of weeds, pest animals and plant diseases while undertaking exploration activities;
  • and, we will adhere to any biosecurity protocols that have been adopted on private or Crown land.

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