GBM Gold Limited chief executive officer John Harrison. PHOTO: ANDREW PERRYMAN.

A gold mining company has announced plans to build a $100 million solar farm at the Woodvale evaporation ponds complex, north of Bendigo.

GBM Gold Ltd wants to create a 60 megawatt solar power plant as it looks to re-purpose the ponds, which have been home to groundwater pumped as part of gold mining activities beneath Bendigo and associated dewatering processes.

GBM Gold Limited chief executive officer John Harrison said the large-scale project, which still requires approval, would improve Bendigo’s resilience to electricity grid problems, and was also in line with state and local government renewable energy policies.

“This project could provide significant long-term environmental and economic benefits to the Bendigo community with an improvement in energy security and an
estimated 100 jobs created during construction.”

He said the ponds enjoyed excellent sun exposure, were not readily visible to adjacent houses, and were also located close to where power is needed.

“We’ve been looking for an alternate use for some time, and we have now found that alternate use.”

Mr Harrison said the company wanted to transform the Woodvale ponds into a 60MW solar power plant, which will be directed straight into Bendigo.

“It is a very exciting project, not just for us, but for the people of Bendigo and it will supply, on a good day, most of the power that Bendigo needs.”

The company remains in discussions with potential joint venture partners, and Mr Harrison said he was optimistic a deal would be made.

“In the current climate there is a lot of money for
renewables and we are very confident the money will come for this project.”

The project would be connected to the sub-transmission network in Bendigo via a 66kV power line, and would tie into a new sub-station to be built on some of the
rehabilitated 174 hectare pond complex at Woodvale.

The ponds have been
redundant since 2016, when groundwater was instead processed through a water treatment plant.

Under GDBM Gold’s proposal, one of the ponds will be retained and would operate as a floating solar facility that also contains rainfall on the site.

“When it rains very heavily on this site, that pod can end up with a metre of water in it, so we keep all rainwater on site, and the rest of the ponds, the other 100 hectares will be standard solar.”

A rehabilitation plan prepared for the site would see one of the ponds converted to a deep fill zone, with contaminants from other ponds to be stockpiled to a repository in its floor.

Mr Harrison said the 60MW solar farm could provide enough renewable energy to power the majority of homes in Bendigo, and he hoped the project would be up and running within two years.

It’s understood if the project gains approval, it would be the first time
redundant ponds have been used for
solar, and would include the biggest floating solar plant in Victoria as part of the complex.

Mr Harrison said the company was in close contact with residents, and he was confident the proposal can gain approval, describing the project as
“robust”.

GBM Gold Limited has been under financial strain and has also encountered problems with the state’s mining regulator over claims arsenic-laden dust was not being contained on the site during hot and dry weather earlier
this year.