Mallee farmers will be calling their own expert witnesses to oppose plans for an open cut mineral sands mine just south of Swan Hill in Victoria.
A public hearing is expected to take five weeks from March 25 to consider a proposal from VHM Ltd to begin construction of the mine later this year wanting to start digging up the valuable rare earths in 2025.
The freehold land has already been secured from four willing sellers for its initial Goshen mine which covers about 1534 hectares (3791 acres) of Cannie Ridge cropping country.
VHM wants to mine and process five million tonnes of mineral sands each year and then transport of product using sealed sea containers via road to Ultima and then rail to Port of Melbourne.
Once in production, Goschen is expected to have 20-25 year mine life.
The Victorian government has appointed an Inquiry and Advisory Committee to advise on VHM's more than 4000-page Environment Effects Statement.
That committee - comprising Michael Kirsch, Elissa Bell and Colin McIntosh - held a directions hearing today (Tuesday) to outline its schedule for the public hearings which are to be mostly held in Swan Hill.
Committee chair Mr Kirsch revealed he had made an unannounced visit to the proposed mine area late last year to become more familiar with the location.
Several groups including VHM, the Environment Protection Authority and local councils were represented by lawyers at the directions hearing.
Mine Free Mallee Farms, a group of about 50 Cannie Ridge farmers opposed to the plans, also had legal representation.
The first two weeks of the hearings will be taken up by VHM and Mine Free Mallee Farms expects they will take five days for its presentations.
Mine Free Mallee Farms said it was securing five of its own experts on hydrology, radiation, soil, flora and fauna and health to speak at the hearing.
VHM's counsel Tim Power said the mining company would be calling its own experts on these areas as well.
Mr Kirsch said one day would be set aside for the three-member panel to make on site visits to key elements of the mine plan including the Ultima rail terminal and Kangaroo Lake.
VHM plans to build a 38km water supply pipeline from the lake capable of supplying up to 4.5 gigalitres each year to the mine. That water would be bought on the open market.
The IAC is required to submit its report to Victoria's Planning Minister within 40 business days from the last day of its proceedings.
There is no timeline for the Minister to make an assessment of that advice.
A positive assessment would allow VHM to apply for its relevant permits and mining licence (already under way), so the company's board can make its final investment decision.