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Savage River Rehabilitation Project

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 operation.

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.

Monitoring Results

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.’


Newsletters

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

Scientific and Technical Branch
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6173 0254  Fax: 03 6233 3800
Email: EnvironmentEnquiries@environment.tas.gov.au