Mining in the Muckleford Forest?

FOBIF has supported an objection by the Muckleford Forest Friends group to a mining exploration application for the forest by Kalamazoo resources.

Our objection is based on extreme caution about such exploration, mixed with bad experience with exploration and sampling exercises in the past. If you want an example, have a look at Dunn’s Reef in the adjoining Maldon Historic Reserve: the surrounding bush still hasn’t recovered from reckless bulldozing dating back 15 years.

The relevant parts of the Friends’ objection are set out below:

Objector: Muckleford Forest Friends Group (MFFG) representing residents in and around the Muckleford Forest

We request that the proposed Exploration Licence be refused on the grounds of adverse environmental, residential and economic impacts and loss of amenity to the local community – as presented on the following pages. 

Objection to the granting of Exploration Licence EL006959

On behalf of Muckleford Forest Friends Group

Environmental

The Muckleford Forest and associated reserves consists of Box-Ironbark forest, and as such represents part of only 17% that remains of the original cover of this forest type in Victoria.

The Muckleford Forest is comprised of the following Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs):

Box-Ironbark Forest- Conservation status -Depleted

Alluvial Terraces Herb-rich Woodland – Conservation status – Endangered

Grassy Woodland – Conservation status – Vulnerable

Heathy Dry Forest – Conservation status – Least Concern

This forest is slowly recovering from the devastation of mining activities carried out from the 1850s until the early 20th century.  It is under constant pressure from climate change, the effects of which have resulted in drier and hotter summers, prolonged droughts, widespread insect attack and other detrimental effects on the vegetation and biodiversity of the forest. Other past and continuing pressures include firewood harvesting, and pest animals (including foxes, rabbits and deer) and pest plants.

The residents and community groups living in and around the Muckleford Forest are committed to the preservation of the environment, the maintenance of the existing levels of biodiversity, and the active management of threats such as pest plants and animals.

The Muckleford Forest is part of the Bendigo KBA (Key Biodiversity Area). Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) are ‘sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity’, in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and are established according to a set of globally agreed criteria for the identification of KBAs worldwide.

As such they have international standing, in much the same way as RAMSAR wetlands or World Heritage Areas.  The Muckleford Forest is one of 315 recognised ‘Nature Hotspots’ across Australia.

The Muckleford Forest provides critical habitat for numerous threatened species including:

Swift Parrot – Critically Endangered (EPBC/ FFG)

Brush-tailed Phascogale -Vulnerable (FFG)

Barking Owl – Endangered (FFG)

Chestnut-rumped Heathwren – Vulnerable (FFG)

Powerful Owl – Vulnerable (FFG)

Speckled Warbler – Vulnerable (FFG)

Square-tailed Kite – Vulnerable (FFG)

Painted Honeyeater – Vulnerable (FFG)

Crested Bellbird – Near Threatened (FFG)

Diamond Firetail – Near Threatened (FFG)

Hooded Robin – Near Threatened (FFG)

Spotted Quail-thrush– Near Threatened (Vic Advisory List)

Brown Treecreeper – Near Threatened (Vic Advisory List)

Black-chinned Honeyeater – Near Threatened (Vic Advisory List)

Black-eared Cuckoo – Near Threatened (Vic Advisory List)

Brown Treecreeper – Near Threatened (Vic Advisory List)

Castlemaine Spider Orchid – Vulnerable (FFG)

In addition, the Muckleford Forest provides an important habitat and food source for a range of native birds, bats and reptiles, which are under increasing pressure from habitat loss, disturbance and climate change.

The Muckleford Forest is also a significant study area for several government, academic and citizen science groups including:

Monash University – Eastern Yellow Robin Study Project (ongoing)

DELWP-Brush-tailed Phascogale survey – Ongoing

Connecting Country – Brush-tailed Phascogale Nest-box survey-(Ongoing)

Connecting Country – Habitat for Bushland Birds Project – Ongoing

MFFG – Long-term KBA Quarterly Bird Survey – Ongoing

Economic

Apiary – The Muckleford Forest has historically been an important resource for local apiarists, and there are numerous permanent apiary sites scattered through the forest.  Most apiary sites have a nominal radius of 800 metres, with some at 1600 metres.  Given the number of apiary sites, and their effective area, the impacts of any mining operations would be significant.

Tourism / Recreation – Because of Muckleford Forest being recognised as a ‘Nature Hotspot’, it is enjoying an increased level of nature tourism.

Regular tour groups of international birdwatchers visit the area, as well as nature enthusiasts from Melbourne and interstate.  A branch of Birdlife Australia has recently been established in Castlemaine, a testament to the importance of the local area to bird conservation.

There are campers at the Red White and Blue picnic area in the middle of the forest on most weekends.

The forest is also extensively used by mountain bike riders and horse riders, many of whom travel some distance to enjoy the forest tracks and trails and contribute to the local economy in doing so.

These important recreational pastimes which rely on the peace, tranquillity and biodiversity of the forest to provide a natural experience are not compatible with mining activities.

Residential – The Kalamazoo media release dated April 17th, 2019, states as a ‘highlight’ that the:

‘Majority of the ELA is located on Crown Land and away from populated areas’

This completely ignores the fact that there are numerous residents living within the Muckleford Forest, and many more around the edges.

Most of the properties within the forest are bush blocks, and are off-grid, the residents having chosen to live a peaceful, sustainable lifestyle close to nature. Several of the properties have Trust for Nature covenants over them.

The loss of amenity (noise, dust, traffic, disturbance) to these residents as a result of any mining activities would be considerable and long-term.

In addition, the roads are all unsealed, narrow and winding, completely unsuitable for heavy vehicles and mining operations.

In Summary:

  • The Muckleford Forest is an important biodiversity asset with a rich variety of flora and fauna, including many threatened species, which will be irreparably damaged by n\mining operations. The soil is fragile and subject to severe erosion following disturbance by heavy machinery.
  • The economic impact on existing enterprises such as apiary, recreation and tourism will be substantial
  • The loss of amenity to residents within and around the forest will be significant and long-lasting

The Muckleford Forest Friends Group strongly objects to the granting of Exploration Licence No.6959 to Kalamazoo Resources Limited.

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