Tasmanian Times


Alex Schaap was incorrect

Before the spill … water clear and ankle deep at the shore

Before … and after. Pic taken from the same spot

After …

The view from Mt Donaldson about 3 pm on the Monday

The Corinna picture was on the Tuesday afternoon about 2 pm

Re Mercury Newspaper article Saturday 16th March page 15: Spill at mine dam probed

The words Alex Schaap state in that article are incorrect.

I was camping with a group of people on the Corinna side of the Savage River at the bridge on Western Explorer road on Sunday the 10th of March.

At 4.00pm on that day we were in the river and the river at that site was no more than a metre deep and clear (picture).

At approximately 2.00 am on Monday the 11th of March, a loud rushing noise awoke several of us; it sounded like it came from the river. We did not investigate and went back to sleep.

At 6.00 am one of the party awoke to a gassy smell and on investigation found that the river had risen almost to the bottom side of the bridge roadway and was fast flowing and full of brown mud.

When it was fully daylight we found that the river had risen by 3 to 4 metres.

That day we climbed Mt Donaldson and from the track could clearly see where the muddy water from the Savage River met up with the tannin water of the Pieman River.

When we left on Tuesday the 12th the Savage River had dropped considerably but was still in flood and discoloured.

We drove to Corinna and crossed the Pieman which was now discoloured by the discharge from the Savage River.

This graph – HERE – shows no rain in the period in question and a highest rainfall of 2 mm. The muddy colour of the river is unusual as when the river rises it doesn’t usually get a sediment load, says one anonymous observer.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Pat Caplice

    March 24, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Simon @ 46 + 43
    The shit is being thrown around because few have faith in the bodies that are supposed to govern these matters. Much the same as few, including you, have faith in the official (non) response to the dioxin threat posed by the Tamar Valley pulp proposal.
    As for slanderous accusations, Scott what’s his name, Tarkine mining and it’s effect on devils.
    It doesn’t add up Simon. I find the EPA untrustworthy and Grange Resourses are just miners seeking profit.
    My post @ 3 asked if you, as an individual with close association with mining had heard anything on that grapevine. Have you?

  2. Emma Goldman

    March 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

    A log jam that caused a flood that was observed to start at 2am, was 3-4 metres high at 6am and continued to raise water levels in the Savage and Pieman Rivers for over 36 hours. Oh Simon really!
    Any other ‘possibilities’ you can dream up you could let the EPA know of?

  3. Simon Warriner

    March 24, 2013 at 8:58 am

    David, log jams and slips in rivers that run through steep country occasionally form dams that eventually burst. It is the bursting of such dams that causes rapid rises and turbidity. Given that such dams are random acts of nature their failure is likewise a random act of nature.

    And yes, I have seen it happen before.

  4. David Obendorf

    March 24, 2013 at 2:38 am

    [b]Nick Clark[/b] in the [i]Saturday Mercury[/i]:

    ‘Mining is not a chic industry like wine or tourism and it does not have universal support.

    Some of the new mines and exploration projects are controversial because they are in the Tarkine, much of which is covered in magnificent temperate rainforest.

    Environmentalists vow to fight the expansion of mining in this area but the federal and state governments have made it clear they are not prepared to impose a blanket ban on exploration in one of the most mineral-rich areas of the state. They believe the industry can be regulated and environmental standards maintained.

    A lot is expected of mining companies these days. They have to be smarter than ever before and the environmental damage must be contained. As a story in tomorrow’s Sunday Tasmanian reveals, Hobart researchers are at the forefront of this work.

    It is very important if Tasmania is to walk the fine line between earning a living and conserving its natural wonders.’ [ENDS]

    The rush is on to get mining jobs in tasmania and bugger the environment.

  5. David Obendorf

    March 24, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Simon [comment #43] I guess I was merely responding to your good suggestion for a trip to Savage River area and the collection of some evidence.

    I heartly agree!

    How does [i]’a log dam or slip in the many chasms of the river'[/i] cause the rapid rise of 3 to 4 metres of [b]high turbidity water[/b]… or I am missing something. Usually heavy persistent rainfall would be necessary to precipitate such an event … Yes/No?

    Those river chasms might need investigating, hey?

  6. Simon Warriner

    March 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    re 41, Emma …

    There will be a dirty great tide mark well above the current water line clear enough for even the dumbest green party aparatchik to spot. Having observed more than a few pumped out dams these last few months, and two dams after the walls have collapsed, the evidence, if it is indeed there, is absolutely crystal clear without the need for “before” photos.

    The important word is “IF”.

    Someone on the team trying to make the case against the mine needs to go look, and then report back, honestly.

    The longer the shit gets flung without someone doing this the more desperate any attempt to blame the mine looks, and if you are wrong, your credibility next time will be closer to zero.

    re 42, David, I have just spent the better part of two days working to raise $100 for my son’s P&F
    and have had the profitable day of racing cancelled so I am going nowhere. Thanks for the offer though. It is not my arguement, I am telling those so hell bent on blaming the mine how to prove their case in the interests of an honest debate. That no-one has done so suggests to me they are not really that interested in evidence.

    As for possible sources, there is the possibility of a log dam or slip in one of the many chasms the river cuts through. One of those bursting would generate a flood peak similar to that described.
    Can anyone blaming the mine discount that possibility? Until they can, they need to stop hurling defamatory allegations about and seek proof of their theory.

  7. David Obendorf

    March 23, 2013 at 12:25 am

    To have high turbidity water surge from a forested catchment where there is no logging, no agriculture and only one dirty great open cut mine with tailing dams in close proximity to Savage River, it’s a no-brainer not to consider the muddy flood surge as photographed by the bushwalkers as coming from one likely source – Grange Resources Savage River mine.

    Simon Warriner [comment #39] if you would like me to cover your petrol costs for a reconnoitre-visit, I will do so!

  8. Emma Goldman

    March 22, 2013 at 10:08 am

    #30 Yes, there does appear to be a media blackout on the dark side of mining in Tasmania – nothing in the Advocate or Examiner and ‘too little’ in the Mercury.
    #39 No amount of ‘looking’ at the tailings dams now will be evidence that levels have dropped if you didn’t photograph it before Monday 11th.
    #40 Yes – the “rain” is a smokescreen

  9. Shaun

    March 22, 2013 at 12:40 am

    For the record, inflows to the Pieman and Mersey-Forth Hydro catchments have been very low to zero for some weeks now the rest of the system is pretty much the same.

    Likewise ask anyone with tank water or take a drive around the suburbs and you’ll soon realise that it’s dry. Venture into the bush and it’s the same story.

    So overall, it’s reasonable to say that until the past few days, overall rainfall (or more specifically, runoff) in Tasmania has been quite low.

    As for 17mm or some similar figure falling at Savage River, that’s not what I’d call a major rainfall event in Western Tasmania where daily totals several times that value are resonably common.

    If it was 200mm then that could be considered an “event” just as a 40 degree day in Hobart could be considered an “event”. But 17 or so mm is about as significant as saying that it’s 28 degrees somewhere in Hobart – it doesn’t happen every day but it’s not something that could be considered as extreme.

  10. Simon Warriner

    March 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    will someone please go an have a look at the bloody tailings dams. One is right next to the road, the other accessable along a 2k track. If what you are claimiong is correct the dam level will be significantly dropped. If not then another reason needs to be sought.

  11. David Obendorf

    March 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    If as Carol Rea suggests there was [i]’probably a big rain event in the Waratah region prior to the surge'[/i], and if it explains what occurred, why didn’t Grange Resources and the Tasmanian EPA immediately offer that up as the [i]reason[/i] when this Savage River Mine spill story first emerged?

    Thank you.

  12. Carol Rea

    March 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    #35 Paul O’Halloran’s office is in the loop.

    It seems there was probably a big rain event in the Waratah region prior to the surge. But now the question is:
    If the mud stirred up contains significant industrial pollution what does that say about the state of the Savage River?

  13. Moriarty

    March 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    There are a number of comments here that I would generally consider to be of the ‘paranoid government conspiracy’ order (like the imported fox scats delusion). However, direct personal experience with the practices and behaviour of (the) EPA has led me to reconsider some of these comments.

    A recent development proposal required the submission of an Envrinomental Impact Statement to the EPA (submitted by the developer). This was submitted, stating there were no problems, a position the underresourced EPA accepted at face value. A cursory read of the statement itself quickly made it apparent the document was a cut and paste job bearing little if any relationship to the area it was ostensibly assessing. Simply put, the geography and landmarks referred to were for a different location. So it looked like an EIS but it wasn’t one. During the consultation process this was pointed out to the EPA (who hadn’t noticed). The EPA accepted the EIS was fraudulent and, on the very same day, approved the development. At least one local resident lost $100,000 on the value of their property as a direct result and has since left the area.

    As a result of witnessing the EPA in action over something with relatively minor political considerations my usual scepticism has been undermined by direct experience

  14. David Obendorf

    March 21, 2013 at 1:03 am

    I reiterate, B. Hart and P. Sugden, please consider sending your images and the details of your experiences to the Tasmanian Greens MPs, especially [b]Paul O’Halloran[/b], the Greens member for Braddon.

    Thank you for your efforts.

  15. john hawkins

    March 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Always remember that the pollies make careful appointments to sensitive positions.

    Substantially commenced indeed …

  16. J. Sheridan

    March 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Jon #27 The Weather Bureau records rainfall in the 24hr period to 9am. So the 17.0mm reported by Station Waratah 97014 on March 11th would have fallen between March 10th at 9am – March 11th at 9am, which covers the period for which the West Tarkone Radar shows rain echoes in the area.

  17. John Maddock

    March 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Alan #26: “The DPIPWE-Water Management shouldn’t get off scot-free here. They are responsible for river management and the safety of dam constructions. Probably they haven’t been doing their work diligently”.


    I have personal experience of their unprofessional attitude to dam safety. Twice, a lay staff member rejected a report by a well qualified professional engineer.


  18. Karl Stevens

    March 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    J. Sheridan 29. A rain gauge beats a radar image every time. Obviously you know what you are talking about. Pity your links didn’t work for me.

  19. David Mohr

    March 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    The Tasmanian media won’t want to touch this (Comments were disabled in the Mercury Article). If this is evidence of environmental damage, public opinion would turn against mining in the Tarkine.

  20. J. Sheridan

    March 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Karl #24 Yes you are correct that the BoM West Tarkone Radar was not working well in early March 13 but in fact, it was fixed by March 10th. If you want to view rogue radar rainfall echoes look at March 2nd;


    and then compare them to the echoes reported on the afternoon of March 10th.


    A lot of rain definitely fell in the Savage River catchment on the afternoon of March 10th. BoM Rainfall Station Waratah 97014 reported 17.0mm of rain to 9am on March 11th.

  21. Isla MacGregor

    March 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    There is a good deal more information that will come to light from people who do know more about these events.

    I posted this on the other article:

    The public have a right to know some answers to some very simple questions put to Grange Resources and the EPA:

    Was there one or two releases from the mine?
    Were they controlled or uncontrolled releases and if controlled did the EPA know about this?
    What time did the releases occur, why and how soon after these events did Grange Resources notify the EPA?
    Which tailings dams did the water come from and why?
    Which Creek alledgedly contained which release?
    Was the water alkaline or acid?
    What action did Grange Resources take to monitor the effects from the releases one of which resulted in the flooding of the Savage and Pieman Rivers and for how long did they monitor these effects?
    Has the EPA been monitoring the Savage and Pieman Rivers immediately after the first event, the second event or both up to the present time?

    When will the EPA publicly release results of their investigation and any action they may intend to take?

  22. Jon Sumby

    March 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    #19, Carol Rea, if we look to the BoM records and to the radar loop in comment 18. The radar shows ‘light to moderate’ rainfall along and just to just to the north of a line between Luncheon Hill and Waratah (look at the map on the radar) around 3:40 pm.

    Now the main question is if rainfall in that area was within the catchment of the Savage River.

    Looking at maps and the radar it seems that about half the rain on the radar falls into the Savage River catchment while the rest falls outside, while the rainfall itself also covers Waratah with the ‘light to moderate’ rainfall.

    Looking at the rainfall records for Waratah on the days around what the photos show we get:
    7th 0 8th 0 9th 0 10th 0.4mm 11th 17.0 mm

    Thus the rainfall seen on the radar records 0.4 mm on the day in an area where it fell.

    If we look further north to a BoM site, outside the Savage River watershed, at Luncheon Hill we get:
    7th 0 8th 0 9th 0 10th 0 11th 0

    Looking south of Savage River the BoM recorder at Rosebery (Gepp St) shows:
    7th 0 8th 4.2mm 9th 0.8mm 10th 9.4mm 11th 1.0mm

    I spoke to someone who knows that area and they said that to get a flood like that would need around 200 mm of rainfall in a short time.

    If you look at the picture taken from Mt Donaldson, the Pieman River doesn’t look elevated, it looks like there is a shoreline where it curves around behind the Savage river inflow, so it looks like the Savage River is the only one affected.

    For myself, the description of what happens sounds like a flash flood, but what is the source? For the river to rise the estimated 4 metres there must be a huge amount of water coming down the river. Was it from rainfall or the tailings dam?

    Some comments have suggested a dam wall failure, but from what I know of the dam wall this would be not sudden and would be apparent before it happened (for example the Blackman Creek collapse in 2005 at Tunbridge). Unless something happened to the wall that was being raised (see: http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/burke/2012/mr20120620a.html). But the question is if the dam itself had the volume to raise the river by 4 metres.

    What I think is that there must be some independent verification of the state of the Savage River mine tailings dam wall (anybody want to do a flyover?) and also just how much water/tailings the dam could release in a short time over the top or ‘through the decant outlet for the dam’ as the Alex Schaap from the EPA says.

  23. alan

    March 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    The DPIPWE-Water Management shouldn’t get off scot-free here. They are responsible for river management and the safety of dam constructions. Probably they haven’t been doing their work diligently.

  24. Dr Buck Emberg

    March 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Perhaps this is what some pollies and many business magnets refer to as:

  25. Karl Stevens

    March 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

    J Sheridan 18. The BOM radar at West Takone was malfunctioning during part of March 2013. I contacted them after noticing anomalies. To quote their email to me “One of the functions on the radar is the suppression of permanent echoes caused by building hills or other obstructions and this is not working at the moment. This means that rogue echoes can pop up that are shown as rainfall on the radar but are not rain.
    The radar was fixed on March 13. Apart from false ‘rain’ around Takone it was picking-up rain in Bass Strait for a few days that wasn’t there.

  26. David Obendorf

    March 20, 2013 at 11:01 am

    There is an abiding truth in media-journalism and responses to it.

    [i]”[b]News[/b] IS what somebody, somewhere wants to suppress.”[/i]

    The inconsistencies in the public statements from Grange Resources at the Savage River mine and the Tasmanian EPA require explanation.

    As one commentor writes photographs don’t lie… yet powerful gatekeepers can even dismiss them, or degrade their value. Perhaps they see that as their job; to suppress embarrassing news.

  27. Russell

    March 20, 2013 at 9:39 am

    The EPA, like the TIC and FT, may as well not exist. May as well chuck all three levels of Government in with that lot too.

    We’d be hundreds of $millions better off annually and the State would turn the economic corner without them much quicker.

  28. Karl Stevens

    March 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Most Tasmanians have difficulty with Alex’s heightened state of awareness and radically attenuated reality. These rivers flooded in precisely the same way as Gunns pulp mill remains ‘substantially commenced’ although the builder is ‘substantially deceased’. It’s these subtle nuances that have put Alex into a world of his own.

  29. Carol Rea

    March 19, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    #9 David the graph is now attached for the Savage River Mine area – but is it nil rainfall or no data? If it’s no data then they have been a bit slack or not repaired their equipment to measure it.
    Better people than I have the skills to discover the real rainfall in the whole catchment area for the Savage River ( yes this means you reader).

  30. J Sheridan

    March 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Actually, it appears to me that there was significant rainfall that fell in the catchment to the east of Savage River between approx. 3:40pm -6:20pm on the afternoon of March 10th 2013. Check out the RADAR images at;


  31. salamander

    March 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    A flash flood that happened in the middle of the night, on a long weekend, when no EPA officials would be about – I know conservationists are mocked for “conspiracy theories’, but considering how many times those theories are closer to the facts than the publicly released “truth”, it is not surprising that there are so many.

    These photos do not lie – unlike – it appears – Alex Schapp.

  32. Shaun

    March 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    A serious question. What, exactly, is in the tailings?

    If it’s just iron and then that wouldn’t be too much of a concern. If there’s a few other nasties then it’s a different story.

  33. David Obendorf

    March 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    B. Hart and P. Sugden, please consider sending your images and the details of your experiences to the Tasmanian Greens MPs, especially [b]Paul O’Halloran[/b], the Greens member for Braddon.

    You can find politicians’ emails on the Parliament of Tasmania website.

    Thank you for your efforts.

  34. john hawkins

    March 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Sack Schaap.

  35. john hayward

    March 19, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Based on probabilities derived from Tas Govt probity in the past, you would have to rate their flash-flood explanation as about as likely as a major lottery win.

    John Hayward

  36. John Powell

    March 19, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Brian #10 I suspect you need to apologize to Isla on the basis of the now published rain graph. There is NO doubt as to who are telling porkies on this one, and the EPA and Grange have much to answer for, oh and of course the Minster who knows nothing!

  37. Ruth Groom

    March 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    @David Brown. Yes we have. It is one of the reasons continually given why open-cut mining in high rainfall areas can never be “safe”. The so-called modern mining methods do not take this into account.

  38. Brain Macfadden

    March 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Isla, the only person telling Porkies here is you. Get your facts correct before spreading such lies. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Read the other postings (on your other thread)by people who do know what has happened and what is being done about this. Until then, you cannot be trusted or believed.

  39. David Obendorf

    March 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Go for it Carol Rea, how much rain fell in that region in the 24 hours before bushwalkers were in the area, detailing it on Tasmanian Tiimes.

    Perhaps [b]Paul O’Halloran MP[/b] for Braddon for the [b]Tasmanian Greens[/b] will ask some questions about this matter.

  40. Carol Rea

    March 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

    The EPA have a media release on their website stating that the two incidents are unrelated. It doesn’t actually say that the first incident was not a spill.

    I called them yesterday and was directed to the media statement. The first ‘event’ seems to have gone unexamined due to either it being a public holiday or it not being reported. I did say that must have been some heck of a thunderstorm but was met with very carefully crafted responses.
    More work needs to be done around the Monday event methinks.

  41. david brown

    March 19, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Have any of you conspiracy theory commentators given a moment’s thougth to the fact that it rained in the chatchment?

  42. Isla MacGregor

    March 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Who’s telling porkies about the tailings dam spill from the Savage River mine?

    Is it possible that both Grange Resources Savage River Mine in Tasmania and the EPA Director Alex Schaap appear to have attempted to deceive the public about the environmental impacts from last week’s tailings dam spill into the Savage and Pieman Rivers on the west coast of Tasmania on the southern edge of the Tarkine Wilderness area?

    Bushwalkers on the Tasmanian west coast yesterday B. Hart and P. Sugden, posted the above article on Tasmaniantimes.com which raised serious doubts over the EPA’s Director Alex Schaap’s recent statements reported in the media about the spill.:

    Comments from Executive Director of Grange Resources last week Wayne Bould and from Alex Schaap have clearly been challenged by these eyewitness accounts.

    Looking back at last weeks Tasmanian press coverage on this issue reveals a very different account of the ‘discharge’ from Alex Schaap and Wayne Bould:

    Alex Schaap’s quote in The Advocate 16 March 2013: “This creek system discharges into the Savage River and so it is possible that tailings may find their way into Savage River…’
    Wayne Bould in the Mercury 16 March 2013: Grange Resources executive director Wayne Bould said the tailings water was alkaline and contained sediment.
    “It has the potential to be acid-forming but we have contained it on the creek system on our site and there is no discharge into the Savage River,” he said.

    No mention has been made of the specific location from where the spill emanated and considering the account from eye witnesses the duration of the flooding of the Savage and Pieman Rivers occurred over many hours.

    Exactly what volume of tailings did flow into the Savage and Pieman Rivers after all? Between the hours of 2am on Monday the 11th March and the afternoon of Tuesday the 12th March when river levels were still seen to be in flood – just how much contaminated water flowed down the Savage and then into the Pieman Rivers Mr Schaap?

    The other issue that has not yet been raised publicly is the danger to any members of the public who were walking or kayaking in this area. Clearly there are some issues here with regard to tailings dam safety control measures that have failed.

    The EPA needs to conduct a full investigation including into the engineering of the tailings dams, and if relevant any recent modifications to tailings dams which were approved last year by Tony Burke and any subsequent breaches to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act (EMPCA).

    This is not the only major spill into the Pieman River from mining activities on the Tasmania west coast. A major spill of highly contaminated thick grey sludge occurred in May 2009 into the Pieman River via the Stitt River from a major discharge from MMG’s Rosebery mine. No results of any EPA investigation have been publicly released from this spill which members of the public have reported to TPEHN.

    In the United States all information on this type of major mine pollution event is made publicly available by the EPA and it is unacceptable in the 21c that in Tasmania we still have this level of secrecy about mining company activities, EPA investigations and any breaches of the EMPCA.

    The EPA is not acting as the independent environmental protection agency that it needs to be. In this recent tailings dam spill at Savage River mine the spurious attempts by the EPA to minimise the extent and impact of mining companies pollution of the environment on the west coast of Tasmania in an area of world heritage significance is nothing short of a sham.

    Of interest are comments on TPEHN’s tt article yesterday:


    Most importantly is the EPA going to assess the source of these tailings as coming under the conditions of the Goldamere Agreement when it comes to compliance, enforcement and any possible penalties?

    Just who is telling the porkies and why?

    Isla MacGregor
    Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network

  43. Shaun

    March 19, 2013 at 12:28 am

    This sounds a bit more serious than just a minor spill I think.

    Minor spills don’t send a 3 – 4 meter high wall of water down a river with the flow remaining at that level for many hours. For that matter, normal non-flood discharge from a dam doesn’t do that either, at least it doesn’t in the rivers we have in Tasmania.

    Structural failure of the dam? Sabotage? Accidental operation of a spillway (does the tailings dam have a mechanically operated spillway or discharge valve?). Either way, it’s not as though we’re talking about a few buckets full being spilled or something like that.

  44. Pat Caplice

    March 19, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Hey Simon Warriner. Any mining stories of a wall collapse?

  45. David Obendorf

    March 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Wow guys! What you’re describing sounds more comparable to a signoficant tailings dam failure – a dam wall breach – that has caused massive flooding into the Savage River.

    Do you have any images of this surge event?

    You must have been lucky to escape the rising waters; people could have been killed in a flood peak of a 3 to 4 metre rise.

  46. Isla MacGregor

    March 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    The Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network reiterate our call for Grange Resources Executive Officer Wayne Bould and the EPA Director ALex Schaap to honestly detail the extent of the spill and its impact on the catchment downstream from the Grange Resources Savage River mine.

    The community have a right to know how such a massive flood event occurred, what action is being taken to prevent this from happening again and what investigations are underway by the EPA.


    TPEHN want to see all of the EPA’s environmental monitoring data from this very big spill publicly released.

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