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EPA Board Inspects Northwest Mines

15 October 2008
The EPA Board hit the road and travelled to the northwest last week to examine efforts to remediate environmental damage from past mining operations at Savage River. Warren Jones, Director EPA says the trip was an opportunity for the Board to view the works that have been carried out at Savage River and discuss with the project team the priorities for the next few years. Savage River is an open-cut iron ore mine. It is the biggest mine in Tasmania and the extraction of many millions of tonnes of ore and waste rock since the 1960s has created some impressive pits. Magnetite is crushed on site and mixed with water to form a slurry before it is piped 80 kilometres to Port Latta on the northwest coast. The facility at Port Latta removes the water and produces iron pellets which are then exported to steel producers in Australia and Asia. Joining the Board on the day tour of the Savage River site were Rob Dineen and Alison Hughes from the Environment Division's acid drainage scientific team. "The Savage River Mine operators Australian Bulk Minerals (ABM) and the State Government are working together to remediate environmental damage caused by acid rock drainage from past mining operations," Alison says. "It's called the Savage River Rehabilitation Project or SRRP and it was initiated back in 1997, after previous mine operators Pickands Mather Inc (PMI) closed the mine and returned it to the State Government." Pickands Mather provided $12 million in cash and the State Government reached an agreement with ABM to provide the equivalent of a further $13 million of in-kind support to fund the remediation project. "The EPA administers the remediation funds and oversees the project as a whole," says EPA Director Warren Jones. "It is rare to have an alliance such as this between the government and a mining company to rehabilitate a working mine and the inspection was a chance for the EPA Board to see how the mining operation was progressing, with a particular emphasis on the management of acid drainage that flows from this site into the Savage River. Works completed included the construction of a water-shedding and alkaline side hill cover system, using eight million bulk cubic metres of alkaline rock and clay, to the biggest source of pollution on the site - B Dump. "B Dump complex is a large historical dump which contributes around 40 % of the whole-of-site copper load at Savage River," Alison says. "There are several environmental benefits of this cover system, including reduction in oxygen and water to the underlying waste dump and the introduction of alkalinity into Main Creek to reduce the toxicity of dissolved metals," she says. The Board also inspected the North Dump Drain project, recently completed at a cost of $1.2 million, which transfers acid drainage from the historic North Dump to the disused South Lens pit for passive treatment. This means that 17% of the total copper and aluminium emissions from the site no longer enter the Savage River. ABM is also looking at putting in a new tailings dam which will also have benefits to the project by helping to neutralise the acid drainage. As part of the trip, the EPA Board also held its monthly Board meeting at Cradle Mountain and took time to look over the Mount Bischoff tin mine at Waratah.
The view from the top of B Dump looking down onto the Savage River mine. In the foreground you can see the South Lens treatment pit and in the background is ABM's North pit.
EPA Board members inspect B Dump as part of their mine examination.
Warren Jones, Bruce Hutchison from ABM, Christine Mucha, John Ramsay and Ian Abernathy looking over the suspension bridge at Savage River.
The Savage River iron ore mine is the largest mine in Tasmania.
Savage River mines iron ore, crushes it and pipes it to Port Latta.
EPA Board members Wayne Petrass, Christine Mucha and Warren Jones inspect Mt Bischoff tin mine at Warratah.