Sparks flew as a wide range of concerns about the McPhillamys Gold Project were brought up at Regis Resources' community consultation session in Blayney on Thursday night.
Residents of Blayney and Kings Plains attended a town hall-style session, which was organised by the mining company to address concerns about the project with a presentation followed by over two hours of questions.
Regis Resources manager of special projects for NSW Tony McPaul said the session, which was attended by about 160 people, "went really well", but it was labelled "disappointing" by one of the leading groups in opposition to the project.
The proposed mine is about five kilometres north of Blayney along the Mid-Western Highway, which is set to last 10 years and extract 200,000 ounces of gold a year over its lifespan.
Belubula Headwaters Protection Group president Daniel Sutton said many of his and the community's concerns weren't addressed by the meeting.
The meeting confirmed they're trying to hide from issues and not delve into them, and I think the job numbers showed that.Belubula Headwaters Protection Group president Dan Sutton
"They seemed very dismissive of concerns, it was disappointing to see," Mr Sutton said.
"A lot of people have the perception that it's just the river [that we're concerned about] but it's not that, it's the economic sustainability, the jobs growth, the water, the quality of water coming from Lithgow, tailings dams, the rehabilitation of the site."
"It was a bit skewed, they talked a lot about the benefits and only really addressed two of the 15 or so concerns that were listed."
He said the turnout had impressed him, as had the breadth of concerns about the project and its impact on Kings Plains, Blayney and the region.
"I threw in a question at the end about 'what happens to the pit?', a lot of people think it will be filled up but they said it won't be."
Mr Sutton said he would have liked to see more discussion on dust and noise, subjects which weren't touched on by Regis in their presentation and weren't asked by the public during the question-and-answer session.
Mr Sutton also said he was "concerned by the culture of Regis".
We tried to answer difficult questions as honestly as we could, even though some people might have not liked the answers we gave them ... I think the night went really well.Regis Resources' Tony McPaul
"The meeting confirmed they're trying to hide from issues and not delve into them, and I think the job numbers showed that. They confirmed you'll only get 78 jobs in Blayney but they had 788 on the screen."
The contention over the number of jobs which would be created by the project stemmed from a Regis slideshow presented by Mr McPaul, which said 1289 jobs would be created during the "peak construction time" of the project, with 788 jobs projected over the life of the 10-year project.
However, only 300 to 350 of those jobs will be directly employed at the McPhillamy project, with the rest coming from additional services to service the mine and mine workers, and after requests for clarification Mr McPaul confirmed only 78 jobs would come from people living in the Blayney Local Government Area.
He said the company would work with council and educational institutions to try and make that number higher.
The question and answer session was nearly cut short as meeting facilitator David Johnson, who is also the independent head of the Community Consultative Committee which includes residents, council representatives and Regis representatives, tried to wind down the meeting at 8pm despite an advertised time of 6pm to 9pm, before members of the audience spoke up and said they had more questions.
Regis' Mr McPaul said "people weren't afraid to speak their minds" and posted "difficult questions" during the evening.
"We tried to answer difficult questions as honestly as we could, even though some people might have not liked the answers we gave them. By and large they accepted them and we had some positives there so I think the night went really well," he said.
Both Mr McPaul and Regis Resources General Manager Jim Beyer, who were answering community questions, were unable to provide precise answers to some more technical questions about the economic and environmental impact of the project, and Mr Sutton said the community "didn't get the answers it deserved".
However, Mr McPaul defended not bringing experts along to Thursday night's session.
"We know [people] are frustrated when we say we don't have all the answers but we're working through the process to submit the Environmental Impact Statement and it takes time," Mr McPaul said.
"No, we brought the experts down last week and they spent two days here and they got lots of questions, it could have been a waste of time."
Mr McPaul thanked the people of Blayney for attending the meeting, and during the session encouraged people to interact and come in to their Adelaide Street office to talk about the project.
The next step is for Regis Resources to submit its Environmental Impact Statement to the NSW government for review, after which the company will have more information sessions.
Dates for those sessions are not yet set but are expected to be in late July or early August, with Regis open to community feedback about when the best timing of the meetings would be.