A LONG-SERVING Queenstown GP has spoken of the trauma if fourth and fifth generation miners have to move as a result of the Mt Lyell mine closure.
Dr Gerry McGushin said what Queenstown and the West Coast needed was mining companies to undertake more exploration.
He said the tourism options being talked about were not an alternative to the mines as they were all small-scale options on the West Coast because of geography.
“There’s a feeling of melancholy and a rollercoaster of emotions in this place since the deaths of the miners,” Dr Gerry McGushin said.
“People had to deal with it and the mine’s closure, and up until recently people have had an expectation they would eventually go back to work.
“To have it suddenly snatched away from them is extremely disruptive to people.
“These are guys with young families and some will have to move.
“Some are third and fourth generation miners.”
Dr McGushin said it was unrealistic to think miners could switch easily to get work in tourism or at fish farms.
“To expect a miner to go run a bed and breakfast, it’s just crazy and it doesn’t work like that,” Dr McGushin said.
“These guys are miners; that’s what they do, you just can’t swap over to the tourism industry.
“Tourism on the West Coast is always limited by geography and if the West Coast Wilderness Railway is not profitable …”
Dr McGushin said Queenstown was not a tourist town like Strahan.
He welcomed the talk of establishing a geopark as a good idea but said it was not going to employ 200 people. “It’s all small scale stuff,” Dr McGushin said.
“We’re in one of the most heavily mineralised areas in the world and the idea is to encourage mining companies to come here for exploration because there’s no doubt there’s plenty of minerals left in the ground and someone’s going to eventually.”
Dr McGushin said the closure of Mt Lyell mine would have a huge impact on those left behind.
“Queenstown does not want to become another social welfare town,” he said.
“Those that have to leave have lived here all their life and now they can no longer look after their elderly parents. Most of those elderly people can’t move elsewhere because their houses will be worth next to nothing.”
Dr McGushin said when men who are used to working are suddenly not working it creates stress at home and the medical practice has seen episodic evidence including some alcohol abuse and depression. One mine worker suicided.
Dr McGushin said the best anti-depressant was a job.
“People need a reason to get out of bed in the morning and working in a mine is what they do.”