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Review of research paper on the significance of atmospheric metal contamination from mining activity adjacent to the TWWHA

​​​The recently published research paper by Schneider et. al. (2019) in The Science of the Total Environment reported high levels of metals in some lake sediments in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  The research is concerned with possible airborne contamination from past open-cut mining practices in the Queenstown and Rosebery areas.

DPIPWE completed a technical review by scientific staff from EPA Tasmania and commissioned the University of Tasmania to independently review the paper. 

The reviews by EPA Tasmania and by Associate Professor Sebastien Meffre (Head of Earth Sciences, University of Tasmania) are available for download here.

  EPA Review of Schneider et al June 2019   (965Kb)

  Review of Schneider by Assoc Prof S. Meffre   (287Kb)

The reviews have noted that the overall data does indicate changes in metals concentration in lake sediments, particularly in the western-most lakes, but have also found several potential flaws with the research.  They have noted puzzling features of the data, which show in some cases that elevated levels of metals occurred prior to the commencement of mining, and which have not been addressed in the research paper. 

These reviews have raised uncertainties with the work, which include potential deficiencies and technical problems or undisclosed alternative interpretation with the analysis, leading to a lack of full confidence in the research.  ​

The reviews have therefore both determined that the research paper conclusion linking open-cut mining to metals in lake sediments is not supported by the data.

In addition, the EPA Tasmania ​​review has determined that the researchers' claim that the metals deposited in the sediments are constantly being remobilised is not supported by the data.

DPIPWE also sampled the water in sixteen lakes in the western part of the State.  The Department's water sampling results have shown that none of the lakes sampled have levels of metals in the water that exceed the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The results show, that as expected, the metals in the lakes sediments appear to remain bound in the substrate.  However, it is important to note that raw water from all lakes should be boiled before consumption, to avoid any problems with pathogens.

Today's mines operate in accordance with current environmental legislation, and new and existing mining operations employ best practice techniques, and all environmental approvals for mines now require rehabilitation and decommissioning plans that need to be undertaken post mining activities.​