The Savage River Mine in Northwest
Tasmania has been producing magnetite concentrate since 1967. The concentrate
is pumped 83km via a pipeline to the Port Latta Pelletising Plant on the coast,
60km west of Burnie.
The mine is located in
steep terrain surrounded by areas of high wilderness value.
Operations over the first
30 years of mine life caused environmental harm to approximately 30km of the
Savage River, which flows through the mine site. Of the 30km impacted, the
reach downstream of the confluence with Main Creek is the most severely
degraded. In 1995, this section was found to have lost 90% of its invertebrate
biodiversity and 99% of its invertebrate abundance.
The Savage River
Rehabilitation Project (SRRP) commenced in 1997 with the transfer of the Savage
River Mine and Port Latta Pelletising Plant from the former operator Pickands
Mather International and Co. to Australian Bulk Minerals. Legal agreements
entered into at the time of the transfer indemnified the new owners from
responsibilities for the legacy pollution and established the SRRP.
These arrangements were
legislated in the Goldamere Pty Ltd Agreement Act (1996), which also provides the
legal foundation for the SRRP funding arrangements and the establishment of the
joint management committee.
In January 2009, ABM merged
with Grange Resources Limited, and Grange has continued the partnership
approach to legacy remediation at the site, alongside their current mining
The Goldamere Agreement Act
created a source of funding for the project, which is partly held in trust and
partly as a debt by Grange Resources that is worked off over time. The balance
of these two sources of funding at early 2016 was approximately $21M, which
enables an ongoing program of work, project management as well as targeted
projects focusing on particular sites or issues.
Progress of the SRRP
Since the inception of the
SRRP, the project has implemented a range of strategies coordinated by its
management committee and guided by a strategic plan that is reviewed annually.
These strategies have included diverting runoff water, capping waste rock dumps
and neutralizing acidic seepages and other mine runoff. A significant feature
of the strategic plan is ongoing adaptive monitoring, which is designed to
inform remediation strategies.
The current SRRP Strategic Plan 2015 was approved by the EPA Board
in September 2015. This plan contains twenty actions for implementation in
collaboration with Grange Resources.
Ongoing monthly water
quality monitoring and other targeted studies demonstrate that the project’s
activities have been successful in reducing the impacts of the legacy pollution.
Water quality downstream of the mine is gradually improving, with acidity and loading
of metals in the water leaving the site continuing to decline over time.
An independent review of water quality monitoring results was conducted
in 2014, and its findings confirmed the success of strategies implemented to
date. The Water Quality Review 2014 provided a number of recommendations for
improving the monitoring regime that have been incorporated into the Strategic
Plan, and are currently being implemented.
A subsequent review of the water quality monitoring data for the 18
months to July 2015 was completed in early 2016. The Water Quality Report 2014-15 summarized concentration and flow data for the major contaminants at
the various monitoring sites at the mine and downstream of it. A notable
finding of the report was:
‘…the results clearly demonstrate that impressive gains
have been made by the SRRP over the long term, particularly in terms of
reduction of copper concentrations in the Savage River. The range of
remediation strategies that have been implemented over the last decade are
demonstrably effective in lowering the concentrations of a range of pollutants
emanating from the site.’
The Savage River Rehabilitation Program Management Committee has published the following Newsletters (Savage River Revival):
Savage River Revival - June 2012
Savage River Revival - March 2008
Savage River Revival - July 2003
Savage River Revival - Feb 2001