Stewart writes: I attended the last Dargues Reef CCC meeting on 30 September as an observer, and since then my nomination has been formally accepted so that I will be able to fully participate in the next CCC meeting to be held on 16 December. I hope I will be able to do Coastwatchers’ interests justice, as I have had relevant experience in my past career in geology and environmental management in mining. This experience includes developing and organising consultative groups for the environmental and social impacts of uranium mining in the Northern Territory, a nd implementing operational procedures for the regulation of mining in Queensland, as well as environmental auditing of mine sites.
The September CCC meeting was almost entirely dedicated to noise; presentations were made by the NSW EPA on regulatory requirements and how monitoring is undertaken, and by the company and Majors Creek residents on a number of issues which have arisen. Perhaps the most significant issue is noise at night. Negotiations have focussed on noise and vibration from blasting, and when ore processing operations begin, crushing and truck movement timetables. Currently the local community is pressing to have ore stockpiled underground at night, with truck movements to the crusher limited to daylight hours.
A short presentation was made to the company at this meeting about the unplanned release of water on 17 September, when an incorrectly graded slope related to construction of the tailings dam allowed sediment-laden water to flow into Spring Creek. The data presented related only to the timing and volume of water flow: flow before the event was below 10 litres per second and peaked at 80 litres per second; flow returned to less than 10 l/s on 20 September. Representatives of NSW EPA visited the site on 17 September, water samples were taken, and a diversion drain was constructed that day to stop the flow of water into Spring Creek. Unfortunately no data was presented at the CCC meeting or since regarding water quality and the extent to which any effects may have extended downstream. I have been pressing the chair of the CCC and the company for that information. I was informed by the company on 21 November that a report on the monitoring data has been drafted and will be uploaded to their website once approved. I believe the company has met the regulatory requirements for management of this unplanned release and subsequent reporting, but that community expectations are not reflected in the long time it is taking to report on water quality. I intend to pursue this matter at the next CCC, and stress that monitoring data related to unplanned water releases needs to be publicised fully and quickly to all downstream stakeholders. Delays in releasing such information can only perpetuate (or increase) negative opinions about the Dargues Reef project.
Resignation of the environmental manager
The The HSEC Manager (Health, Safety Environment & Community) has recently resigned and his last day is 22 November. The position of Senior Environmental Advisor is still vacant.
Water Management Plan for the Operational Phase
The operational phase of mining (open stope blasting, ore trucking, ore processing to produce concentrate, and trucking concentrate off-site) is planned to begin during the next 6 months. A Water Management Plan is being drafted for the operational phase. I has been given an assurance by NSW EPA that Coastwatchers will have the opportunity to comment on the draft prior to it being finalised. Key issues for us will relate to water quality monitoring, inclusion of parameters relating to downstream water quality risks, and release of monitoring data.
Public presentation and project update
The company held a public information forum in Majors Creek on the evening of 18 November. Key points were:
- Construction of the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) is nearly complete and placement of the High Density Polyethelyne (HDPE) liner is in progress.
- Licenced water bores have been installed into old mine workings (Snobs and Stewart & Mertons), and one ‘Harvestable Rights Dam’ has been built (these will allow the company to source water for mine operations, and also to maintain water flow in Spring Creek).
- 24/7 underground mining operations began in September with over 2,000 metres of underground development completed. The first stope firing will take place in the next 6 months.
- Construction of the processing plant is 80% complete; commissioning is expected by the end of February, with transport of concentrate to Port Kembla beginning in that month.
- During the next 6 months, more ‘Harvestable Rights Dams’ will be built and tailings deposition into the TSF will begin.
A slide presentation from the public information session is on the company website:
Information is also posted on their Facebook page: