A new underground mine just 23 kilometres east of Armidale has gained conditional approval at a Council meeting on Wednesday.
Hillgrove Mines is planning to expand its operations with a 300-metre-deep antimony mine at Clarks Gully near Waterfall Way.
But first, needs to satisfy four conditions including outlining biodiversity offsets and recording baseline environmental impact data.
Two speakers spoke against the recommendation, including Save Our Macleay River member Arthur Bain.
“We are concerned that Council’s planning report … acknowledges that the environmental impact assessment of the proposed mine is inadequate,” Mr Bain said.
“We urge Council to delay determination of the DA until it has sufficient information to assess the environmental impacts of the mine.”
The mine is not expected to begin operations until antimony prices recover - even with conditional deferred consent.
And the company must get Council’s permission to become operational after they meet their conditions.
Approval for a new Hillgrove mine is in Armidale Regional Council administrator Ian Tiley’s hands at a council meeting this morning.
Hillgrove Mines is seeking “conditional deferred commencement consent” to build a 300-metre-deep underground mine at Clarks Gully, 23 kilometres east of Armidale on Waterfall Way.
The company must conduct a biodiversity review and offset any unavoidable environmental impacts to council’s satisfaction to meet their conditions.
It must also acquire a land easement for its haulage road from the proposed mine site to its processing facility in Hillgrove.
It must buy a neighbouring property, identified in a noise and vibrations assessment report, and acquire baseline data on stream and groundwater, dust, and aquatic animals.
Dr Tiley met with mining executives, landholders and protesters at the proposed site on Monday to hear the stakeholders’ concerns.
Four environmentalists spoke against the development, while the mine’s general manager, Scott Jones, and council staff took questions on notice.
“This was about giving people an opportunity to express their views and to be heard by council,” Dr Tiley said.
“I like to visit the sites of any large DAs, and this is certainly one of them, to listen and hear what people have to say.”
Mr Jones will address council at this morning's meeting.
But speaking to The Express on Monday, he said all the concerns raised had already been addressed.
“The issues raised have pretty much already been raised by other people and have been responded to previously,” he said.
“In addressing issues that have been raised, I will pretty much be referring to previous work that has been done on those matters.”
One of the concerns raised at Monday’s site meeting included how the mine would manage a plantation of threatened Northern Blue Box gum trees.
Water management, especially keeping contaminants from leaking into the Macleay River downstream of the site, was also a key point at the meeting.
Hillgrove Mines is currently in a care and maintain phase after a sharp downturn in antimony prices saw it lay off more than 100 workers in December 2015.
The mine lodged its application in September 2015.
Development assessment manager John Goodall said if the administrator granted conditional approval, and once the company achieved the requirements, then they would be granted operational approval.
“The initial consent doesn’t become operative until they satisfy a number of conditions,” he said.
“From there, they still need to get the approvals and licences from relevant authorities like EPA and the department of resources and energy.”
But Mr Jones said even if the DA received conditional approval, they would defer development until the commodity price recovered.
“Construction and development won't begin until there is a decision by the Hillgrove board to recommence operations,” he said.
“The antimony price would need to recover significantly.”
A successful proposal would help secure about 150 jobs.
The mine is expected to produce 240,000 tonnes of ore per year, with a total extraction estimated at 640,000 tonnes over eight years.
And the total active working life of the mine is slated at about three to four years.