Shire hits at air ‘stunt’

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
PICTURE BY NIC ELLIS 28 OCTOBER 2009 THE WEST AUSTRALIAN FAIRFAX ONLINE OUT Shire of East Pilbara president Lynne Craigie.
Camera IconPICTURE BY NIC ELLIS 28 OCTOBER 2009 THE WEST AUSTRALIAN FAIRFAX ONLINE OUT Shire of East Pilbara president Lynne Craigie. Credit: WA News

A resources company proposing to build a $4 million airstrip to allow its workers to jet directly to its goldmine just 60km away from an existing airport in Newman says the airstrip would prevent a three-hour trek on a road with safety concerns.

The Shire of East Pilbara, which previously spoke out against the plan because of the economic damage it would do to the town, has labelled the comments as an “outrageously inaccurate publicity stunt”.

Capricorn Metals wants to build the 2km airstrip at the Karlawinda gold project in the region’s east, which the Shire has publicly slammed since the details first emerged.

The company recently claimed the travel time between its facility and the existing Newman Airport was about three hours and the airstrip bid had been prompted by safety concerns.

But the mine is linked to the town by the all-weather Coobina Mine Road and Great Northern Highway, which would take a traveller about 45 minutes.

Shire president Lynne Craigie said there was no need for “yet another” private airstrip in the region and said it would hurt Newman, the town closest to the project.

“This is a disappointing publicity stunt by Capricorn Metals, designed to take the focus off their flawed attempt to build an airstrip just 60km from the existing Newman Airport,” she said.

“Instead I call on Capricorn Metals to get started consulting with us here in Newman, as the closest impacted town. We are waiting for their call.

“We are not against investment. We want to work with mining companies — they are taking a resource out of our community, so how about putting a little something back in.”

The airstrip would form part of the $170m Karlawinda Project, south-east of Newman.

A 306-room accommodation village has already been built on the site, with the plant set to be commissioned next year and the first gold expected in the June quarter. The project will have the potential to process up to five million tonnes of ore a year during its first three years.

In past weeks there had been some confusion as to whether the State Government had already approved the airstrip for construction, with Cr Craigie criticising the State Government for what she believed had been its approval.

But Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety resource and environmental compliance executive director Karen Caple rejected the claims, saying while an airstrip could be located on a granted mining lease, approval had not been given.

“At this point in time, no such mining proposal application has been received by DMIRS; therefore no approval for an airstrip has been granted by DMIRS,” she said. “To build an airstrip, Capricorn Metals would need to submit a revised mining proposal to DMIRS for approval,” she said.

Capricorn Metals refused to comment.

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