“EAST Gippslanders have accused the Victorian Government of cutting a murky deal on reopening a Benambra tailings dam to take mine waste, which they say puts the Tambo Valley’s water supplies at risk.”
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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
Dear Ms Eagleson,
Gippsland Environment Group is very concerned about a scheduled burn due to be ignited in East Gippsland along the Ramsar listed Lake Tyers downstream of the township of Nowa Nowa ( Nowa Nowa –Nelsons Rd – 2BNN0029).
This planned burn (260ha) is located in Lake Tyers State Park and borders the Nowa Nowa arm of Lake Tyers, a part of the Ramsar listed Gippsland Lakes. It has not been burnt for more than 60 years. Previous DELWP burns in the Lake Tyers State Park have incinerated a Sooty owl nest and burnt vegetation right down to the lake shore.
Another burn adjacent to the township destroyed a number of large habitat trees and the amenity of the Nowa Nowa Mountain Bike trail.
We wish to respectfully request an immediate pause on any plans to ignite the burn and that DELWP undertake on-ground surveys to ensure the protection of the site’s ecological values:
- Current conditions are very dry and reliance on the moisture differential to protect the Warm Temperate Rainforest stands and Riparian Forest, combined with use of aerial incendiaries risks incinerating the whole area;
- The burn plan has not excluded a section of the Limestone Box woodland in the southeast corner and the dozed boundary has crossed through the EVC;
- There are a number of Yellow-bellied Glider feed trees in the south-east gully bordering the dozed fire break-line at S37° 45.8’ E148°7.8 and Yellow bellied gliders were heard immediately west of here on night of 15.2.17;
- Yellow-bellied gliders were also seen and heard on western side of Nelsons Rd (across from the cleared land-forest boundary on east side road) on night of 15.2.17. Locals have frequently heard and seen yellow-bellied gliders point crossing Nelsons Rd at this point entering to and from the burn area;
- There is an eagles nest on the spur running east from the mouth of Ironstone Creek at S37°44.30 E148°.6.24. There also other Yellow-bellied glider feed trees in this area;
- An extensive stand of Silver Banksia is located in the gully that runs east on the southern side of the eagle’s nest;
- Many large old Saw Banksias occur throughout the burn area but there are many of varying age as well, burning this site will eliminate this age differentiation and destroy a key food source for nectar-feeding mammals;
- There are many old habitat trees throughout the whole burn area but DELWP have only raked or dozed around those hollow trees immediately adjacent to the road;
- Long unburnt forest in East Gippsland is preferred habitat of potoroos and bandicoots but no DELWP mammal surveys have been conducted;
- Long unburnt forest is now a rarity in Gippsland and must be protected.
It is unfortunate that our request to walk through the burn area with DELWP burn staff was refused, this area is of very high ecological significance.
We urge the Department to intervene to ensure that this burn is re-assessed and the biodiversity at the site is completely protected.
Gippsland Environment Group
Environmental Justice Australia will be holding a workshop in Bairnsdale on the 5th of December at 6:30pm. Click on the poster image below to enlarge.
Please register at http://envirojustice.org.au/nature-laws-bairnsdale if you wish to attend.
This open letter recently submitted on behalf of GEG to Victorian ministers addresses the lack of action on feral horses in the Victorian Alps.
“Eastern Alpine National Park is dying, and Victoria is doing nothing about it.
Feral horses are not only destroying the Alps fragile ecology, plant and animal communities, but the ability to provide a reliable source of water via the slow release of clear, pure water.
[The Australian Alps produce 29% of the Murray Darling’s water, worth about $9.6 billion p.a. As well, since the Snowy River’s diversion as part of the Snowy Scheme, the south eastern slopes of the Eastern Alps are the principle source of its water.]
In a time of climate change, can we afford to ignore this degradation of our major water resource?”