Image for STATE: Poisoning our Western Rivers – When will it stop?

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It is far from current news that Tasmania’s Western Rivers are in a desperate plight through insensitive mining activities ... but with the Lib/Labs’ desperate vision for more mining jobs in the state the process of environmental responsibility and accountability seems to be rapidly deteriorating.

Take the Shree Minerals operation for example. If any future mining exploration and development licenses are based on what eventuated at the Nelson River site ( TT here and here )  then it seems likely that all is required to get new mine into operation in Tasmania these days it is merely a process of rubber-stamping.

Currently there is no insurance that Shree Minerals, or our duped and gullible governments, will ever address the rock-acid issue on site, and subsequently rehabilitate that mine. Furthermore the amount of rock-acid that Shree produced at Nelson River was significantly more than they claimed in the environment assessments. Was this proponent deception, or government ignorance?

In some cases in western Tasmania significant mine-site remediation has been undertaken. Prior to Grange Resources takeover of the Savage River Mine, the company (along with taxpayers) invested $ millions into the construction of their tailing ponds to prevent siltation spilling into the middle reaches of the Savage River.

Despite this remediation there is no explanation as to why there continues to be accidental releases of mineral pollution into the river, and once again there has been no public disclosure, or any response by the EPA.

Why?

It is obvious that requirements and conditions for approving future mining applications it still far from being acceptable.

What is Rock Acid?

History attests that company responsibility towards the environmental restoration process of past mines is all smoke and mirrors.  In some cases when a Tasmania mine is transferred to another company the onus of rehabilitating these mining activities is waived by the government, which simply means - ‘it’s someone else’s problem’.

Consequently as a result of the sluicing of heavy mineral silt and related rock acid into rivers, notable mines such as Mt Lyell and Savage River have seen the associated downstream rivers to become ecologically dead for possibly centuries.

Although the control of rock-acid techniques in modern mining have improved considerably, essentially any water catchment below a present or past mine location in Western Tasmania’s is likely to be significantly polluted to a degree of concern.

Acid mine drainage results from the oxidation of sulphide-bearing rocks (e.g. rocks with the common sulphide minerals pyrite, and pyrrhotite). This is recognised as one of the major sources of heavy metal pollution in waterways near mining sites in Tasmania.

The disturbance and exposure of acid sulphate soils by earth-moving practices and fluctuations in groundwater levels can result in the oxidation of pyrite, which in turn produces sulphuric acid.

Acid water and heavy metal pollution, caused by the disturbance of acid sulphate soils, is a major environmental issue in Tasmania, and surveys have identified parts of northwest Tasmania as a hot-spot for potential river pollution.

Above are a few graphic examples of mining contamination to our western waterways.

• Joan Emberg in Comments: Being a ‘Queenie girl’, I am horrified ... it is even worse than I remember as a kid. it’s proof of the rapaciousness of the mining industry and the trash and dump mentality of so many.  My dad used to talk about the pristine wilderness before sulphur from Mt Lyell devastated the environs.  Heart breaking! 

• Nicole Anderson in Comments: Thank you again Ted. This serves to contrast starkly the talk up of mining in the Tarkine by the state government spin. These are pictures that they would prefer the public not see, much less the commentary. A sad reality and warning for the future if Venture and others continue to thwart the lax regulations over environmental management.