Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

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.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Pete Godfrey

    June 28, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Hi Ted thanks for the great photos. In this day it is unbelievable that the drums and metal from mining operations are not being recycled. It is beyond the pale that the miners are allowed to just dump recyleables in landfill.
    As for the rivers well, talings dams are not even a good idea in a dry area. In area of very high rainfall, it is pretty easy to see that once the dam fills up the waste water has to go somewhere. And the rivers are it.
    There are some great examples of talings dam collapses think Ok Tedi for a massive stuff up.
    In that case the miners spent millions of dollars on lawyers trying to avoid paying any compensation or doing repairs to the river they destroyed.
    Here well we have idiots that haunt the halls of parliament who just waive any requirements to post bonds, clean up the mess or even pay for the minerals they dig up.
    The report card for miners in Tasmania so far is all “F”s.

  2. Dr.John R.Wilson

    June 28, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    There’s a stark reality here.
    Horrible unconscionable environmental abuse.

    “Beautiful Tasmania”.
    Ugly.
    “Clean, green Tasmania”.
    Dug up.
    Poisoned.
    Dead.
    “Pristine Wilderness”
    Dump.

    Do we accept we’re in for more of the same.
    Apathy and anti-environmentalism.
    Or do we change …

  3. Chris B

    June 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Pete why not make them tourist attractions, samples could be bottled and admired by terrorists, oops tourists world wide, who could take them home in pure green bottles.

  4. Dr Buck Emberg and Joan

    June 28, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    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! Joan

  5. Isla MacGregor

    June 28, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    For Tasmanians concerned with these issues and those who want to see changes made for the future, development of an Integrated Policy on Mining is essential … something TWS, ET and the Tarkine Coalition have yet to brave.

    For TPEHN’s Mining Policy:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Mining_pollution_in_Tasmania

  6. Mike Adams

    June 28, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Has anyone, or any agency, actually costed removing the widespread mineral pollution from these rivers?

  7. Dr.John R.Wilson

    June 28, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    #5 Thanks, Isla. That’s very impressive work.

    BTW, have you considered the TPEHN’s Proposed Mining Policy could also include the keeping of an Official Register of Tasmanian mine workers and their families so as to facilitate the assessment of health risks and life-long follow-ups?
    Some mining industry-related illnesses take decades to manifest, as you know, but with an operational Register on hand, those illnesses which appear in later life (such as mesothelioma) or intergenerationally (such as birth defects) may be much more easily attributed and/or proven.
    It’s just a thought..
    Cheers …

  8. Richard Browne

    June 28, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Just look over the edge of any roadside in Tasmania and see the rubbish everywhere..What kind of vermin are being bred in tasmania…Once every month or so I have to hound the wynyard council to send someone up to the lookout at Table Cape to clear up the horrible rubbish Tasmania vermin throw off of there..This is one of the first destinations tourists visit to see the fantastic views…But council will only clear it if told to do so…

  9. chris arthur

    June 29, 2015 at 2:00 am

    Ted

    Fantastic photographs it is reality for the western rivers the Pieman banks are coated in a crust of tailings from Rosebery.
    The King River Tailings at Macquarie Harbour can be remediated trials were undertaken but the funding was not available was removed by the Federal government. Shortsighted when the trails were successful

  10. Tony Hale

    June 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I do believe I saw The King like that nearly 50 years ago; no better, no worse. Such is life in a copper town!

  11. Ted Mead

    June 29, 2015 at 11:28 am

    #9 – Hi Chris – I was unaware that there had been rehabilitation trials on the lower KIng River, but that won’t stop the ongoing siltation of Macquarie Harbour.

    Meanwhile I thought you’d be out having too much of an adventurous time near Iceland to be online here. Seems some can’t relinquish their habits of reading TasTimes no matter where they are!!!!!!

  12. Nicole Anderson

    June 29, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    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.

  13. William Boeder

    June 29, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Let it be known that the likes of Bryan (the giggler) Green could have intervened in the grab for the funding set aside for remediation work necessary to attend to the constant slurries descending into the river from the Mt Lyall Copper Mine.
    (Also consider he was the minister who provided the leverage to approve the Venture Minerals fiasco.)
    The current operators of the Mt Lyell mine sought the proviso of being able to retain the waste disposal system that has their chemical and mineral outfalls continue their direct course into the King River.
    Perhaps ‘the giggler’ can provide the information sought, though this is something that the likes of this feckless minister causes rather than prevents.
    Ironic it is that every negative consideration or huge polluting menace has been approved by one or another of this State’s propriety-dodging Premiers or one of their subservient portfolio ministers.

  14. Isla MacGregor

    July 1, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    7# Thanks John………..but we have included the issues concerning miners and their families ongoing health issues in the last point of the TPEHN Mining Policy….

    [i]Additional independent health services for miners and former miners and their families whether living in mining towns or other areas.[/i]

    We specifically included miners/families living in [i]other areas[/i] partly because the Cancer registry only registers deaths from cancer from the location where people died…..not where they may have spent most of their lives…for instance in Rosebery……and then moving to the north west coast to retire or get ongoing medical treatment for chronic health conditions.

    It is interesting that the Menzies Institute apparently has no interest in tracking health outcomes for miners and their families on the west coast. No need to wonder why after how the DHHS went for Dr Andreas Ernst who spoke out about the poisoned Rosebery residents.

  15. Nicole Anderson

    July 2, 2015 at 12:32 am

    #14 Isla MacGregor, you are spot on. It beggars belief that with Tasmania’s pitiful public health profile, that the government keeps pushing industries guaranteed to cause ill health. The lack of big picture comprehension is staggering.

  16. Alison Bleaney

    July 2, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    #15 absolutely!
    It’s worth repeating- the lack of the big picture comprehension across Government agencies is staggering.
    Remind me why we have these agencies, please.

  17. Isla MacGregor

    July 2, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    ….and sadly the lack of a [i]big picture[/i] on mining by all the ENGO’s and Health organisations in Tasmania.

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