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, for export. The mine is located in steep terrain surrounded by native rainforest of high wilderness value. The climate is cool-temperate with an average annual rainfall of approximately 1900 mm.
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. Fish abundance was also greatly reduced. Surveys in the Savage River National Park, which is situated upstream of the mine, have shown that populations of native fish are depleted, as pollution emanating from the mine site acts as a barrier to fish migration.
In 1996, the then owner of the mine, Pickards Mather International Company (PMI) ceased operations. The Tasmanian Government reached an agreement with PMI and the new owner, Australian Bulk Minerals (ABM) trading as Goldamere, which indemnified the new owner from responsibility for the legacy pollution and the settlement assigned $24 million for the remediation of pollution arising from the first 30 years of operations. In January 2009, ABM merged with Grange Resources Ltd, and Goldamere became Grange Resources (Tasmania) Pty Ltd. These arrangements were legislated in the
Goldamere Pty Ltd (Agreement) Act 1996 and subsequent Deeds became known as the Goldamere Agreement.
The Savage River Rehabilitation Project (SRRP) – a unique joint arrangement between Government and the mining company – commenced in 1997 to manage remediation works aimed at reducing the impacts of past pollution at Savage River. Grange has continued the partnership approach established under the SRRP and worked to address legacy remediation at the site, alongside their current mining operation.
The Goldamere Agreement established the funding for the SRRP and detailed the roles and responsibilities for a joint Management Committee.The Committee is comprised of two representatives from the EPA, one from Mineral Resources Tasmania (Department of State Growth), and two from Grange Resources Tasmania. The SRRP funding source is split between two accounts: an interest bearing statutory Trust, the Environment Protection Fund; and the Purchase Price account, which is the debt owed to the Crown and worked-off by Grange over time. The balance of these accounts at early 2021 was approximately $20M, and this funding 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. These strategies have included diverting runoff water, capping waste rock dumps and neutralizing acidic seepages. A significant feature of the Plan has been research studies and ongoing adaptive monitoring, designed to inform future remediation strategies.
SRRP Strategic Plan 2020-21 was approved by the EPA Board in December 2020. It sets out the strategies, priorities and actions over the three-year term, with the actions being reviewed annually by the Board.
SRRP Strategic Plan 2020-23 (PDF 2Mb)
Ongoing monthly water quality monitoring and other targeted studies demonstrate that the activities undertaken by the SRRP have been successful in reducing the impacts of legacy pollution downstream of the mine.
Periodic reviews of water quality since 2014 have shown that water quality is gradually improving, with acidity and loading of metals in the water leaving the site continuing to decline over time. This trend over the past decade of declining concentrations of copper along with other key metals concentrations in the lower Savage River was confirmed in the most recent review of 2015-17 data. The water quality review of data from 2015-17, is available below.
SRRP Water Quality Review July 2015 to June 2017 (PDF 13Mb)
Aquatic bioassessments have been conducted in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2008 and 2012. The findings of the most recent survey in 2012 reflect this trend in ongoing improvement in the health of the River. The report on the aquatic bioassessment conducted in 2012 is available below.
Savage River Rehabilitation Project Bioassessment 2020-21 Report, July 2022 (PDF 9Mb)
In 1995 the stretch of river downstream of the Savage River mine site was found to have lost 90 percent of macroinvertebrate diversity (number of different species) and 99 percent abundance (total number), and the number of fish was also greatly reduced due to historic mine pollution.
Since this initial survey, the SRRP has conducted five bioassessments of Savage River and its tributary, Main Creek in 1997/98, 2001/2, 2007/8, 2011/12 and 2020/21. The last bioassessment was undertaken by Entura, with spring and autumn surveys conducted in November 2020 and April-May 2021 respectively, followed by a comprehensive analysis and reporting. The final Report, which was received in July 2022, shows that the trend of improving river health has continued.
The SRRP Management Committee has published the following Newsletters (Savage River Revival):
Savage River Revival - June 2012 (PDF 849Kb)
Savage River Revival - March 2008 (PDF 7Mb)
Savage River Revival - June 2003 (PDF 2Mb)
Savage River Revival - Feb 2001 (PDF 1Mb)
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