Bird in Hand proclamation to permanently cork mining

The state government has moved to effectively ban any reactivation of the Bird in Hand gold mine in the Adelaide Hills, after refusing a controversial mining application for the site earlier this year.

May 01, 2023, updated Jan 30, 2024
Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Governor Frances Adamson on Thursday proclaimed the Bird in Hand gold deposit following a request from the Malinauskas Government.

It means the Woodside site is now exempt from future mining applications because the sections of the Mining Act 1971 that regulate mineral prospecting, exploration licenses and mining leases no longer apply.

The proposed location of the Bird in Hand gold mine. Terramin bought the 40-hectare dairy property in 2015 and applied for a mining lease and a miscellaneous purpose licence in 2019.

Governor proclamations have been used in the past to protect sites such as the Mintabie Town Lease Area in the APY Lands and the Burra Monster Mine Historic Area in the Mid-North.

The Bird in Hand gold deposit was the location of 17 gold mines that operated in the 1880s and sits among vineyards in the Adelaide Hills.

Energy and Mining Minister Tom Koutsantonis in February exercised ministerial powers to refuse a bid from ASX-listed company Terramin to reactive the gold mine, despite the project satisfying all regulatory requirements from the Department for Energy and mining.

Koutsantonis said at the time he “took into account other relevant considerations” when making his decision, including potential impacts to amenity and tourism.

Terramin’s proposal was opposed by nearby landholders and vineyards, including Bird in Hand Winery and Petaluma Winery, due to concerns about potential impacts on groundwater.

Today, Koutsantonis said the Governor’s proclamation ensures his decision to refuse the mine “holds firm both now and into the future”.

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“This was an important and necessary step to protect against future attempts to mine this deposit,” he said.

“We want to ensure local tourism businesses – including world-class wineries – as well as the local amenity of this area remain protected.

“Tourism is a vital contributor to this region’s local economy and the risk that a short-term mining development could pose to established and significant long-term agricultural and tourism industries is too great, and would be contrary to the state’s broader interests.”

Terramin planned to operate a gold mine on the site for around five years, saying it would create 140 direct jobs and contribute $221 million to South Australia’s gross state product.

Terramin’s board and management said at the time it was “surprised and disappointed” by the government’s knockback.

“To have been through this exhaustive process and then be denied the Mining Lease with no clear explanation of the grounds for this decision is most unexpected,” it said in February.

The rejection also triggered sharp criticisms from the state’s mining lobby, which labelled Koutsantonis as the state’s “biggest roadblock” to new projects and claimed the Bird in Hand project was rejected on “populist political grounds”.

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