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EPA investigating tailings dam release at Savage River Mine

15 March 2013

Officers representing the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) are investigating an unplanned release of water from a tailings dam at the Savage River iron ore mine on Tasmania’s west coast.

Director EPA Alex Schaap said the release is believed to have started last night when water backed up behind tailings in the tailings dam began discharging through the decant outlet for the dam.

“This water may be carrying tailings with it into a creek system,” Mr. Schaap said.

“This creek system discharges into the Savage River and so it is possible that tailings may find their way into Savage River and some discolouration may become evident. The discolouration of the river reported earlier in the week is unrelated to this incident.”

“The tailings from the mine do not present a risk to public health. The tailings do not contain any processing chemicals of concern nor is metal contamination the major concern as it is further south around Queenstown.”

Mr. Schaap said the Savage River tailings do however contain sulfur from the naturally occurring sulfides in the rock.

“This may present a risk to local aquatic ecology in the longer term if sediment is deposited in the river in large enough quantities and becomes acidic. Further assessment will be undertaken to determine if harm to the environment has occurred or is likely to occur,” Mr. Schaap said.

“Several of our officers are on site assessing the scene and working with Grange Resources to ensure that the discharge is stopped and that measures are taken to prevent and mitigate any impacts as quickly as possible."

Mr. Schaap said water and sediment sampling is being undertaken as part of the EPA investigation into this incident.