Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Kalbar’s exotic minerals mine a toxic risk to Victoria’s food bowl

Kalbar’s exotic minerals mine a toxic risk to Victoria’s food bowl, Michael West Media by Elizabeth Minter | Jun 18, 2021 | A hearing into the Environment Effects Statement for Kalbar’s mineral sands project on rich Victorian farmland has been told about competition for billions of litres of water, high levels of uranium, untested technologies and a strange backflip by the project’s “independent experts”. Elizabeth Minter investigates.

For exactly 100 years, Kane Busch’s family have farmed the fertile soils of the Lindenow Valley in East Gippsland, Victoria. After leaving Denmark in 1913, Kane’s great-grandfather Eiler Busch settled in the Valley, buying in 1921 the land that is now the home of Busch Organics.

Kane’s grandfather, also called Eiler, was behind the push for more environmentally friendly farming while experiencing the devastating droughts of the 1990s. The farm gained official organic certification in 2000. Grandson Kane is following in those footsteps, and was recently a finalist for a national award for “Young Grower of the Year”.

The Lindenow Valley produces the salad greens and vegetables – broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, celery, beetroot, cabbage and carrots – that help feed the nation. The Valley produces nearly one-third of the state’s vegetables; employs up to 2000 people at peak times; and is worth more than $150 million to the local economy.

The area also has huge environmental significance, with the heritage-listed Mitchell River, the Ramsar-protected Gippsland Lakes wetlands, and the Perry River’s unique Chain of Ponds, which is home to many threatened plant and animal species. Once ubiquitous across south-eastern Australia, “chain of ponds” systems are now rare.

But this is all now in jeopardy thanks to a mineral sands mining proposal from Kalbar Operations Pty Ltd (Kalbar), a company that was established as an investment vehicle and that has never operated a mine. It would be almost comical were it not for the potentially deadly consequences.

There’s monazite, which contains rare earth metals plus radioactive uranium and thorium and is thus potentially dangerous to residents, the waterways and the vegetables growing by the mine’s boundary; the competition for billions of litres of water; and the untried technology being proposed to tackle the mining waste. Nowhere in Australia is a mineral sands mine located so closely to, and upwind of, a major vegetable growing industry.

Kalbar is proposing a 1,675-hectare open-cut mine just 350 metres from the Mitchell River, which flows into the Gippsland Lakes wetlands. The mine will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 15 years. A public hearing is under way as part of the inquiry into the Environment Effects Statement (EES). The following information has been revealed during the hearing.

Big miners walk away, lack of water the key risk

The multinational miner Rio Tinto originally owned the mining exploration licences. In 2011 Oresome, a subsidiary of Metallica Minerals, entered into a right to explore and option to purchase agreement with Rio for the licences.

A scoping study it commissioned showed a mine could be viable only if there was a dependable water supply. The risk of not finding a reliable source of up to 6.2 billion litres annually for an acceptable price received a Category F rating, defined as a problem with possibly “no viable solution” and a “fatal flaw”.

Water supplies

Kalbar’s proposed mine will sit on the plateau high above the Mitchell River with the vegetables growing just metresfrom the river.

The mine is 3.5 kilometres from the main source of the region’s drinking water (other than tank water). The mine and the horticultural industry will be in direct competition for water, with both relying on the Mitchell River and the same groundwater………….

Treatment of mine waste

Also controversial is access to how mine waste will be managed. The mine’s original design included a 90-hectare tailings dam.

But when government agencies and others highlighted the extreme danger such a dam posed to the Perry River and the Chain of Ponds, Kalbar changed its proposal.

The mine now plans to use giant centrifuge machines to remove water from the tailings waste, and then reuse that water.

The East Gippsland Shire Council, which unanimously opposes the mine, was not convinced of the viability of centrifuges, which are untested in mineral sands mining. The council commissioned a report from an independent mining industry consultancy, Ausenco.

Ausenco’s report raised concerns and advised that many more centrifuges would be required than Kalbar proposed. Then just weeks later, of its own volition, Ausenco issued a new report …………..

Radioactive dust a hazard

Kalbar plans to mine for and partially refine zircon, titanium-bearing rutile, ilmenite and rare earths minerals.

Airborne dust generated from mineral sands mines not only contains toxic heavy metals and radioactive monazite, thorium and uranium but also respirable crystalline silica, which leads to the deadly lung disease silicosis……………

Reputational damage to growers……     https://www.michaelwest.com.au/kalbars-exotic-minerals-mine-a-toxic-risk-to-victorias-food-bowl/

June 19, 2021 - Posted by | rare earths, Victoria

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