Big show of public support for NSW silver mine as surging price raises development prospects
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Special Report: Silver Mines Limited’s plans to develop the Bowdens silver deposit near Mudgee in central New South Wales have been met with a wave of public support.
Silver Mines (ASX: SVL) lodged its Development Application and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Bowdens, the largest undeveloped silver deposit in Australia, with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in late May.
The eight-week EIS exhibition period, during which time the public was invited to make submissions expressing their support or opposition, closed on 27 July.
Of the 1748 public submissions made, 1363, or 78%, were in support of the project going ahead.
In the Mid-Western Regional Council area, where the project is located, there was three times the level of support compared to those against the project.
NSW Minerals Council chief executive Steve Galilee said he was not aware of a greenfields mining project in the state that had ever received such a positive response to its EIS.
“This is a very good result for Bowdens, and it demonstrates strong recognition of the benefits the project will bring to the region, including more than 500 jobs,” he told Stockhead.
Silver Mines managing director Anthony McClure said the main reason given for supporting the project in the submissions received was its potential to create jobs and address local unemployment issues in the Mid-Western Regional Council area.
The region has seen several major employers, including the Kandos cement works and the Charbon coal mine, close in recent years. Prior to COVID-19, the unemployment rate in the joint towns of Kandos Rylstone was already running at more than 15%.
Despite the majority support for Bowdens, 367 public submissions were received in objection to the proposed mine, meaning it will still need to be assessed by the NSW Independent Planning Commission.
Had the company received less than 50 objections, it would have bypassed this stage.
Nevertheless, McClure said he was “extremely pleased” with the support from the local community and more generally, and he was confident about securing IPC approval.
The Bowdens deposit contains a silver equivalent resource of 275 million ounces, making it one of the largest undeveloped silver deposits in the world.
Its development prospects have strengthened over the course of this year with the price of silver surging from a low of less than US$12 an ounce in mid-March to almost US$30 an ounce earlier this month.
In 2018, Silver Mines completed a Feasibility Study on an open cut mine development at Bowdens producing an average of 3.4 million ounces of silver, 6900 tonnes of zinc and 5100 tonnes of lead a year for an initial 16 years.
The estimated capital cost of the development was $246 million.
In parallel with finalising the EIS, the company has continued to work on optimising the results of the Feasibility Study to improve the project’s profitability.
It is also undertaking further drilling at Bowdens in a bid to identify higher grade silver zones that may have a positive effect on mine economics.