Ausgold, the company behind the proposed Katanning goldmine project, drew a curious and questioning crowd to its first community information day on Wednesday, March 22 at the Katanning Country Club. A 3pm session for agricultural landholders attracted about 40 guests to the club, while the business and community forum at 5.30pm soon became standing room only. After an introduction from the Katanning Regional Business Association, Ausgold managing director Matthew Greentree addressed the crowded club. “We see ourselves as having integrity, and that’s part of what we’re doing here today,” Mr Greentree said “It’s about communication and understanding what the community’s concerns will be, we take strong ownership of what we do and how we act in the community, and we are part of the community.” While unity was a recurrent theme throughout the session, opinions expressed later in the evening demonstrated that the community had yet to reach a general consensus on the future of the project. Ausgold study manager Stewart McCallion took to the floor after Mr Greentree to outline the group’s vision and spruik the Katanning operation. “This project is special, it’s a particularly unique project,” Mr McCallion said. “You may be familiar with the operation 25 years ago, what we’re talking about today is something significantly different, an order of magnitude different.” Throughout the 90s, 20,000 ounces of gold were extracted from the proposed mine area roughly 40km from Katanning. Mr Callion stated that a large amount of gold remained to be mined. “This is arguably one of the best undeveloped gold resources in the State today, it’s a good one,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer technically, there’s nothing that is technically insurmountable and basically what we’re saying is that this is a very attractive project.” Studies conducted by Ausgold indicated the cost of labour, electricity, suppliers and materials over 11 years of development and operation would be in the region of $1.7 billion. “Part of that is flowing back into the community, and that’s what we’re looking at as part of this,” Mr McCallion said. “Where are the opportunities for local businesses, how does it impact the facilities here, how do we employ people locally and keep them here. We want to integrate into this community. “We need to look at how this can be done, and this is the beginning of that conversation.” Upon completion, the proposed mine will employ about 150 full-time staff. The issue of securing worker accommodation was one of the first topics of conversation raised during the Q&A session, with one man suggesting the use of the Katanning Residential College. Katanning Residential College, the epicentre of the Katanning hostel sexual abuse tragedy, has been under control of the Department of Education since 2016. “I can’t say for certain what the status of the building is today, we recognise there is a history here, I mean that with no disrespect and we see an opportunity to do something positive with the facility,” Mr McCallion said. Ella Maesepp from Landcare Katanning rose to read from a prepared statement that outlined concerns around the impact of the mine on the habitat of the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo. “What Katanning Landcare is asking us all to do, is to become aware of the environmental and agricultural impacts,” she said. “We need to engage in robust and informed conversation about potential consequences and how they align with our local identity and values, what are we prepared to let happen on our watch.” Ms Maesepp was interrupted at one point by a loud exclamation of “bulls...”. The expected total area of the Katanning goldmine is 3000ha, including a one kilometre environmental buffer zone. Concerns regarding the loss of prime farming land were raised by generational farmer Tim Harris, and Jade Riley asked if the mine site would have an impact on any Aboriginal heritage sites. Mr McCallion acknowledged that one heritage site would be impacted and that discussion with Aboriginal groups would need to take place.