Media Release: THE STATE GOVERNMENT’S MURKY DEAL ON BENAMBRA MINE TAILINGS DAM THREATENS TAMBO RIVER

MEDIA RELEASE – 20 December 2017

THE STATE GOVERNMENT’S MURKY DEAL ON BENAMBRA MINE TAILINGS DAM THREATENS TAMBO RIVER

Gippsland Environment Group has condemned the Victorian Government’s decision to lift the mining licence exemption over the Stockman mine’s toxic tailings dam constructed on the headwaters of the Tambo River near Benambra.

The Minister for Resources decision to amend the licence will permit the toxic tailings dam to be re-opened and expanded by CopperChem the company which has recently acquired Independence Group’s Stockman Project

“This is a murky deal that will jeopardise the health of the Tambo River and Gippsland Lakes for thousands of years,” said Louise Crisp of Gippsland Environment Group. “On what grounds was the exemption lifted and why weren’t the public and downstream farmers and communities consulted?”

“The Benambra copper and zinc mine was first operated by Denehurst Pty Ltd from 1992-96, until the company went bust and abandoned the mine site.  The company left behind a leaking tailings dam filled with 700,000 tonnes of toxic heavy metal tailings at risk of breaching and flooding the Tambo River and Gippsland Lakes.

In 2006 the State Government rehabilitated the tailings dam at a cost of $7million to the taxpayer. The dam was renamed Lake St Barbara and an exemption placed over the site to exclude it from any future mining licence.

The dam is still leaking polluted water at a rate of 86,000 litres per day into the headwaters of the Tambo River, the ore used to raise the dam wall to prevent it breaching contained potential acid forming material, and an acid seep from the old processing plant is also contaminating the Tambo River.

In 2014 Independence Group proposed to re-open the Stockman mine and massively expand the tailings dam to store up to another seven million tonnes of mine tailings. The company planned to raise the dam wall up to 45 metres above the valley floor and to increase the surface area of the dam from eight to 32 hectares.

In December this year Australian company CopperChem  purchased Independence Group’s Stockman Project. At the same time the Victorian Minister for Resources Tim Pallas announced that CopperChem had signed a deal with the State Government to fund the ongoing management of the tailings dam after mining has ended. The tailings must remain covered by two metres of water forever to prevent an acid chain reaction occurring.

When interviewed on ABC radio last week the Minister would not divulge the financial details of the Trust Fund which is intended to fund the management of the tailings dam in perpetuity.

“The community has a right to know what CopperChem’s financial contribution is to the Trust Fund and whether the Victorian taxpayer is also making a contribution,” said Ms Crisp.  “How can the State Government possibly calculate what it will cost to maintain a massively expanded dam filled with toxic tailings and keep the Tambo River and Gippsland Lakes safe for the next thousand years?”

The Minister for Resources also failed to mention that he had signed off on an amendment to the mining licence exemption which will now permit the tailings dam to be expanded and become operational again. There was no public consultation regarding the amendment. CopperChem has now submitted an application to Earth Resources for an infrastructure mining licence over the tailings dam.

“The rehabilitation of the abandoned tailings dam in 2006 came at a great financial cost to the taxpayer and the exemption excluding it from any mining operations forever was put there for good reason,” said Ms Crisp. “Why has the exemption been lifted? What advice has the Minister received about the risks to the Tambo River from an expanded tailings dam constructed right across its headwaters?  How much will it cost the taxpayer to remediate a much larger tailings dam, the second time around?”

The decision by the State Government to abrogate its ongoing responsibility for the tailings dam is foolhardy and incomprehensible. The Resources Minister’s action to remove the exemption over the tailings dam puts the future of the Tambo River and Gippsland Lakes at risk of catastrophic environmental damage.

See attached: Minister’s amendment of the licence exemption


Further reading is available at the Stockman Mine page

Burrungabugee & Gungarlin rivers – Before/after photo gallery

Burrungabugee 1a, intercepted by weir
Burrungabugee 1a, intercepted by weir
Burrungabugee 1b, flowing through weir 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 1b, flowing through weir 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 2a, intercepted by weir since 1965,
Burrungabugee 2a, intercepted by weir since 1965,
Burrungabugee 2b, flowing through weir 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 2b, flowing through weir 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 2c, flowing through weir 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 2c, flowing through weir 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 3a, dry below weir & bridge since 1965
Burrungabugee 3a, dry below weir & bridge since 1965
Burrungabugee 3b, flowing below weir & bridge 5.10.17
Burrungabugee 3b, flowing below weir & bridge 5.10.17
Gungarlin 3a, dry immediately below weir since 1965
Gungarlin 3a, dry immediately below weir since 1965
Gungarlin 3b, flowing immediately below weir 5.10.17
Gungarlin 3b, flowing immediately below weir 5.10.17
Gungarlin 3c, flowing past rock face below weir 5.10.17
Gungarlin 3c, flowing past rock face below weir 5.10.17

VIDEO: Upper Snowy in KNP:

http://youtu.be/4nlhflxIZok

VIDEO: Guthega Power Station:

http://youtu.be/0QvZQgTDc4I

GEG Media Release – Tuesday 17 October 2017: SNOWY HYDRO LTD – DONT TURN OFF SNOWY RIVERS

SNOWY HYDRO LTD – DONT TURN OFF SNOWY RIVERS

Two big rivers that once flowed into the Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park are flowing again for the first time in 50 years and must not be turned off again, according to Gippsland Environment Group.

The Burrungabugge and Gungarlin Rivers are tributaries of the upper Snowy River above Jindabyne.  In 1965, as part of the construction of the Snowy Scheme, these two rivers, like many others in the Snowy Mountains, were completely diverted and sent west for hydro-electricity generation and irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The waters of the Burrungabugge and Gungarlin Rivers were collected at weirs and dropped down the 100m deep Burrungabugge diversion shaft into the Snowy-Eucumbene tunnel which directs the water of the upper Snowy River between Island bend Dam and Eucumbene Dam.

That diversion shaft has now failed due to long-term wear and tear. Snowy Hydro Ltd has had to open the weir gates and allow the Burrungabugge and Gungarlin Rivers to flow down their natural course into the Snowy River below Island bend Dam. From there the waters flow into Jindabyne Dam.

Gippsland Environment Group is calling on the three government shareholders of Snowy Hydro Ltd to let the Burrungabugge and Gungarlin Rivers permanently run free.

“It is an incredible sight to see rivers that were beheaded by the Snowy Scheme once again flowing down their steep mountain river beds,” said spokesperson Louise Crisp. “For sixty years the Burrungabugge and Gungarlin Rivers have had 99% of their headwaters diverted by the Snowy Scheme.”

“It is no longer the environmental dark ages of the 1950s,” said Ms Crisp. “These rivers must remain free flowing; they are key tributaries of the Snowy River in Kosciuszko National Park. There would be no net loss of water to Snowy Hydro Ltd as the company is able to pump the water back up to Island bend Dam via the Jindabyne Dam pumping station.”

“The NSW Government is currently undertaking the first Ten-year Review of the 75-year Snowy Water Licence. If the three government shareholders of Snowy Hydro Ltd are to deliver on their commitments to sustainable water management then Licence should be amended. The Burrungabugge and Gungarlin Rivers must not be turned off like a tap,” concluded Ms Crisp.

Media enquiries contact:
info@geg.org.au

Gungarlin River, KNP – dry river bed below weir since 1965Photo: L. Crisp
Gungarlin River, KNP – dry river bed below weir since 1965 Photo: L. Crisp
Gungarlin River KNP, flowing below weir 5th Oct 2017.  Photo: L. Crisp
Gungarlin River KNP, flowing below weir 5th Oct 2017. Photo: L. Crisp

 

 

COMMUNITY WORKSHOP: Threatened Species & Protection – 17th August 2017

rainforest

PHOTO: LIZARDSTOMP

COMMUNITY WORKSHOP

Threatened Species Reporting and Protection under Victorian Law

 

The local community and citizen scientists in Gippsland are invited to learn about using threatened species surveys to help protect Victoria’s threatened plants, animals and their habitats. An expert lawyer from Environmental Justice Australia will explain the current laws and:

  • Where to find the rules relevant to species in your area
  • Where to find surveying guides and maps
  • What to record when surveying
  • How to document and report your findings
  • When you might need help from lawyers

Thursday 17th August, 6.45pm for 7.00pm start

Bairnsdale Neighbourhood House, 27 Dalmahoy Street, Bairnsdale

Environmental Justice Australia is pleased to host this workshop in collaboration with Gippsland Environment Group Inc.

If you have any questions please contact Gippsland Environment Group on 0418 516 373