One of Australia’s largest beekeeping businesses fears bright lights and noise at a proposed gold mine nearby could result in millions of bees becoming disorientated and stressed.
- Beekeeper concerned nearby mine proposal would leave her bees disorientated
- Researcher says concerns over bright lights and loud noises at mine sites are valid
- Mine company confident it can mitigate concerns of impact on bee hives in neighbouring state forest
The $415 million McPhillamys Gold Project at Blayney, in central-west NSW, would see the construction of an open-cut mine and tailings dam on farmland and, once in operation, could process more than 200,000 ounces of gold each year over a 10-year lifespan.
But the proposal has divided the local community, which has raised a variety of concerns over the impact the mine could have on surface and groundwater, contamination risks as well as the adverse effect on agriculture and property values.
Owner of Goldfields Honey Vicki Lockwood has been beekeeping in the area for more than two decades and kept hives in a section of state forest which backs onto the proposed mine development.
“We run 8000 hives each concerned as many as 60,000 bees and we’re very worried about the impact this mine could have on our bees,” she said.
“We’re particularly concerned about the bees flying towards the light as well as the noise and dust that would be emitted.
Mrs Lockwood said more studies need to be carried out looking into the effect mine projects have on bee behaviour.
“The impact could be huge, we don’t know what effect the noise and vibrations at the mine could have on our queen bees mating,” she said.
“But with this proposal, we’re dealing with things like contaminants that come from mining, lighting, dust, water, and our queen bee breeding program will be put at risk.”
Mrs Lockwood was also concerned about her bees flying over the mine site and stinging workers who could suffer from an allergic reaction.
Research into effect of light, noise, pollution on bees
While only a small small amount of research had been carried out into the impact a mine development could have on bee behaviour, an expert believed concerns were valid.
“Honey bees typically don’t fly at night, but if there is light pollution then they might be encouraged to fly when they should be sleeping,” University of Sydney bee researcher Nadine Chapman said.
“At night time, the bees should be at home in their hives turning their nectar into honey, and the lights could instead encourage them to expend energy by flying around and getting disorientated.”
Dr Chapman said beekeepers work very gently with their colonies and don’t like to disturb them with a lot of noise.
“The has been a report showing bees don’t move for twenty minutes after hearing a loud noise,” she said.
“There’s also the issue of the air pollution created by mines as the bees take dust and fine particular matter particles back to the hives, while pollution can also make it difficult for bees to forage as it’s harder to pick up the smell of flowers.”
Company confident it can appease concerns
The company behind the proposed McPhillamys Gold Project, Regis Resources, was confident it could address concerns raised by neighbouring apiarists.
It said it had consulted with a number of apiarists in the area, including the owner of Goldfields Honey and had offered an area of off-set land for beehives south of Blayney.
“We don’t believe the mine operation will directly impact on their bees but I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to convince them of that,” Regis’ special projects manager Tony McPaul said.
In an attempt to ease concerns over the amount of noise emitted from the mine site, Mr McPaul said mining equipment could be ‘sound suppressed’ to reduce noise.
“Other beekeepers we’ve spoken to in the area don’t believe the mine would impact on their business.”
Mr McPaul said the company would consider helping to commission a study into the effect of bees if the project was given approval.
The NSW Independent Planning Commission was expected to make a decision this year on whether the mine will be given the green light.