Woodvale evaporation pond. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

WOODVALE residents are sceptical of a gold mining company’s plan to create a $100 million solar farm on the site of now disused evaporation ponds.

The Woodvale Progress Association met late last month and have unanimously supported a motion to support the rehabilitation of the ponds as per an agreed plan and audit.

The group wants the controversial evaporation ponds to undergo the “highest possible standard of rehabilitation in the shortest time possible”, in line with the Woodvale Community Plan supported by the Woodvale Progress Association and the City of Greater 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 last month 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.

Residents say they are open to ideas that may achieve ultimately a better environmental outcome for Woodvale, including potentially a solar farm, and they are also supportive of renewable energy, but rehabilitation of the evaporation ponds by GBM Gold Ltd needs to progress in a timely fashion.

The reported solar farm proposal is the latest in a series of proposals that GBM have put forward which the group says have stalled and delayed rehabilitation.

“In the meantime the Woodvale community are left with a contaminated and mismanaged site.”

In a stinging rebuke of GBM, the residents group says the company “have proven to be experts at evading their obligations, including their recent responding to government notices with legal action instead of compliance”.

A rehabilitation plan prepared for the Woodvale 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 told journalists at last month’s announcement of the solar farm plan that the company was in close contact with residents, and he was confident the proposal can gain approval, describing the project as “robust”.

GBM Gold Ltd has experienced financial difficulties and remains suspended on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The company’s Bendigo mining licenses have expired.

The Woodvale Progress Association says a $100 million solar farm is an extremely ambitious project for such a financially-strapped company to be proposing.

The organisation says it remains committed to working with all parties towards the timely and proper rehabilitation of the evaporation ponds.