The Stockman base metals project is situated in State Forest in the alpine area of East Gippsland, Victoria, adjacent to a National Park and within the headwaters of a major Ramsar-listed wetland catchment and the Murray-Darling River system. Site topography is steep, and elevated (650 m – 1200 m above sea level), and subject to circa 1 m annual rainfall, with occasional winter snowfall.
The project consists of two volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits to be mined by underground methods and treated in a 1.0 Mt/a central concentrator to produce copper and zinc concentrates for export over a ten year operational life.
New resource projects are rare in Victoria. Recognising the sensitive setting, planning for the Stockman Project, which is now in the advanced permitting stage, has focused on balancing economic, environmental and social outcomes to ensure social licence to operate is secured and can be maintained. This has involved close attention to triple bottom line (TBL) risks and outcomes.
Stockman has successfully gained State and Federal approvals via the Environmental Effects Statement process. The process of obtaining these approvals has required close attention to effective stakeholder involvement, and management of a lengthy and difficult approvals process, which is still to be finally concluded.
This paper is a case study of the process of that permitting and the issues encountered to date. Key learnings from the experience have included:
- successful approvals require close attention to much more than just the project and its technical aspects and physical setting – effective stakeholder involvement and endorsement is critical
- the differing consultation requirements for local, regional and government stakeholders, to design and plan implementation of a project to meet TBL objectives, and to gain social licence to operate
- within the Victorian approvals process, the need for an effective lead government agency with policy authority
- dealing with material policy change requiring post-closure financial sureties
- estimating realistic permitting time and cost during the project evaluation phase.
Jacobs, R and Yeates, J, 2016. Stockman base metals project – sustainability, social licence to operate and permitting lessons learnt, in Proceedings Project Evaluation 2016, pp 98–110 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).