Thursday 22 March 2007


Mr FINCH (Statement) - Mr President, the people of Beaconsfield and many others are still waiting for production to resume at the Beaconsfield goldmine. All the indications are that it is not far off and I would like to report to this House the present situation almost 12 months since the Anzac Day tragedy last year. No gold has been brought to the surface since then, although preparations to resume production have been under way employing about 70 of the normal work force of 130. A further dozen or so contractors are also currently employed full time. The mine management has been working with Workplace Standards to comply with its guidelines.

I am told that there are two Workplace Standard notices that still need to be complied with. No-one is committing themselves to a time line for compliance but I understand approval to begin mining again is imminent. It is hoped that will happen before the mine manager, Matthew Gill, leaves in a few weeks. Resumed production might be a suitable reward for the harrowing job that he had to oversee last year. What will resumed production mean? For a start, 130 miners will be able to get back to work, boosting the economy of the Beaconsfield region, and revenue from gold sales will start flowing again and this will be considerable.

The world gold price looks particularly favourable at the moment. It was more than US$647 an ounce early this week. That is close to $A820 an ounce. The Beaconsfield goldmine has a substantial ore body yet to be explored - exploited as well. The mine owners have announced their commitment to a thorough exploration program designed to maximise the potential of the mine. The man behind the mine's resurrection after its closure in 1917, Harry Stackpoole, says that no-one knows exactly how much gold is there. He explained to me last week that the ore body is 350 metres from east to west and varies between half a metre and 7 metres in width. The present and future potential gold production areas contain about 443 000 ounces of resource.

Mr Stackpoole believes there could be more than 1 million ounces of gold in the mine, a very rich resource with the current gold price of $A820 an ounce. It was Harry Stackpoole who oversaw the first drilling when the mine's flooding problem was largely controlled in the early 1990s. That test drill hole hit 3.7 metres of ore body with the fabulously rich gold content of 57 grams to the tonne. Until the tragic rock fall on 25 April last year, the Beaconsfield goldmine was functioning well. The problem of water ingress was well in hand and seemed to be less of an impediment as mining progressed.
However, there was the hindrance of joint ownership between Beaconsfield Gold
and Allstate and the burden of Allstate's debt involvement with the Macquarie Bank. All that seems to be largely resolved with single ownership and the bank's withdrawal. Employee entitlements are fully backed with cash and their length of service has not been impacted. The future looks rosy for the Beaconsfield goldmine. Investigation continues into the cause of the rock fall last April and the results will be known in due course.

In the meantime, considerable work has been undertaken to ensure the safety of the work force when the mine resumes production and it turns to profitable operations. This will end a year of sadness and uncertainty for the people of the region. I am sure that members would want to know the latest on Todd Russell and Brant Webb; I can report that there will be an anniversary, called “Beaconsfield Honours”, on 9 May. The two special guests will, of course, be Todd and Brant. Todd Russell has just had a knee operation; he will be playing football in the EJ Whitton game in Melbourne to help raise money for prostate cancer and if he gets through that all right he will be playing for Bridgenorth, the mighty Parrots, for the rest of the season. Brant Webb is selling boats for Port Sorell Marine. On the subject of going back down the mine, Todd said, 'Once bitten twice shy', and Brant Webb's wife will cut his legs off if he even thinks about going back down.

Kmart has recently made a donation of $30 000 to the Russell-Webb Legacy and there will be a meeting soon to decide what to do and which community projects will be supported with the money that has been raised.