FAQ – Environment and Community
Environmental management & rehabilitation
What is Alkane’s approach to environmental management?
Alkane seeks to minimise our environmental footprint at all our mining and exploration sites – for the total lifetime of those sites. We work hard to protect the wide variety of native species that live in our mining areas, and we design and adapt our operations to best meet these needs.
Our aim is to leave our mining sites as stable functioning ecosystems despite the inevitable change in land form. Before any soil is turned, we create biodiversity offsets (for the restoration and planting of new native habitats for animal species) and carefully plan progressive rehabilitation, monitoring and management actions. Once the mining process is over, mine infrastructure is removed and the final landform is rehabilitated to be left in a long-term stable condition.
How does Alkane manage the impact of its operations?
Alkane seeks to minimise the impact of our activities at all times and is committed to keeping our staff and all members of the community safe and minimising our impact on the environment.
To achieve this, we ensure we meet or exceed the requirements of all laws in relation to safe environmental practices and occupational health and safety. These measures and actions are all documented within the Environment Management System (EMS) and supporting Management Plans (EMPs) and Mine Operation Plan (MOP) for each project we undertake.
What is the potential impact of the Dubbo Project (DP) and how will it be managed?
The Environment Impact Statement (EIS) describes the project and lays out the potential environmental impacts of the DP. It also explains how Alkane Resources is planning to manage those impacts.
In assessing the potential impact of the DP, Alkane has taken a conservative approach. The DP emissions will meet or exceed the criteria or standards set by NSW, Australian and international environmental protection authorities.For more detail please read Responses to the Public Submissions to the DZP Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The EIS is a technical document. A series of plain language fact sheets have been developed to assist non-technical audiences in understanding the key issues. For more information on your area of interest, please download the relevant fact sheet below:
How is the impact of the Tomingley Gold mine managed?
What is Alkane’s approach to and record in environmental rehabilitation?
Peak Hill Gold Mine (1996 to 2005)
Alkane has left the mining leases at Peak Hill in a safer and improved environmental condition than pre-1996. While the landform has changed significantly due to the five open cut voids from mining, the site is now safely fenced and managed for tourism (Open Cut Experience) and biodiversity values. There has been an increase in biodiversity across the mining lease, which has been driven by stable final landforms, rehabilitation plantings, weed control and pest animal control. (For more information visit Rehabilitation of Peak Hill Gold Mine).
Tomingley Gold Operations (2014 to current)
Progressive rehabilitation has commenced at Alkane’s Tomingley Gold Operations (TGO) and will continue for the life of the mine (until about 2022).The primary aim of initial works is to stabilise the outside walls of the ‘waste rock emplacements’ (repositories of waste rock extracted from the pits) and sowing pasture vegetation consistent with the Tomingley area.
Full details of all rehabilitation commitments can be found in the TGO Mine Operations Plan (MOP), available on the Alkane website (http://www.alkane.com.au/operations/tomingley-gold-operations/tgo-environment/management-plans/).
Dubbo Project: What is the anticipated mine life and what will be done to rehabilitate the land?
If the company went bankrupt, what would happen to site rehabilitation?
Who’s responsible for rehabilitation after mining ceases?
What will happen to the land no longer suitable for agriculture (e.g. 157Ha of waste rock and residue at the DP)?
Will you put the mine wastes back in the open cut pit eventually?
What is Alkane’s approach to biodiversity offsets?
What biodiversity offsets has Alkane already put in place?
Tomingley Gold Operations: TGO has 127Ha of biodiversity offset in in place, with these areas secured under a Property Vegetation Management Plan (PVP).Amelioration planting has been carried out to improve biodiversity across these areas where the previous use was cropping and grazing.
Peak Hill: In addition to general site rehabilitation post-mining, Alkane established ??Ha of biodiversity offset areas at the start of operations.
What biodiversity offsets are planned for the Dubbo Project?
How will the biodiversity around the DP be protected/preserved? What guarantee is there?
There are strict government laws to protect biodiversity offset areas. These are incorporated in the development consent, which conditions the approval to secure, manage and fund a biodiversity offset area.The condition requires that the biodiversity offset area is secured to prohibit any activities other than those included in an approved biodiversity offset management plan.
A Property Vegetation Plan (PVP) for the purpose of conservation is the methodology of Australian Strategic Materials (ASM) for securing and managing the biodiversity offset area. The PVP will be registered with Local Land Services. This covenant will cover all of the biodiversity offset areas. This covenant is in perpetuity on title so that if the property was ever sold then the new owners would still be bound by the covenant with numerous prescribed management actions to ensure that the land is managed for its conservation value.
It should be noted that the DP ore body is discreet and outside of the biodiversity offset area. There are no other mineable resources contained within the biodiversity offset area. The mine is only a small section of the overall project, which focuses on the high value-add processing of finished products.
Clearing for the DP open cut mine and associated infrastructure will be impacting on a multitude of animal species. How can that be justified?
This issue has been considered by the NSW Government as part of its approval, and the remaining net impact considered acceptable given the project’s economic benefits.
The ecological assessment of the DP by specialist ecological consultants has been exhaustive and reveals the biodiversity offset strategy will also ultimately deliver a net conservation benefit. While there will be a short-term impact on the flora and fauna occupying habitat to be disturbed, the biodiversity offset area will provide significant benefits to local flora and fauna.
- A significant proportion of the biodiversity offset area is currently managed for grazing and cropping, and this will be actively converted to grassy woodland habitat.
- A significant proportion of the biodiversity offset area is currently managed for grazing and cropping, and this will be actively converted to grassy woodland habitat.
- Through this change in land use and community structure, direct linkages of remnant habitat found on Dowd’s Hill, Wambangalang Creek and Benolong Road will be created.
- A specific focus for conservation efforts at DP will be the pink-tailed worm-lizard, with large areas of known and potential habitat for this species included.
These changes to the local setting will deliver benefits to a wide number of species and potentially open opportunities for biodiversity enhanced through additional tree planting and natural recruitment.
The Peak Hill Gold Mine is a good example of what Alkane has achieved with the rehabilitation of its mining leases. The diversity of trees, shrubs, birds and mammals has significantly increased between 1996 and 2017.
How does Alkane source water for project sites –Tomingley Gold Operations?
Water usage in NSW is governed by the distribution of water licences, which are a tradable asset and purchased from willing sellers. Water can also be purchased on the temporary water market.
Tomingley Gold Operations has purchased a water licence from local irrigator and is permitted to use 1000ML of bore water per year from the Mid-Macquarie River alluvial aquifer. Much of the water onsite is recycled and reused. Pumping tests carried out at the time of the Narromine bore being developed indicated that the use of this water will have minimal impact on surrounding properties.
How does Alkane source water for project sites – Dubbo Project?
Water usage in NSW is governed by the distribution of water licences, and in this case, the water will come primarily from the Macquarie River. Australian Strategic Materials(ASM) has acquired High Security and General Security water licences in accordance with the rules of the Water Sharing Plan for the Macquarie and Cudgegong Regulated Rivers Water Source.
ASM holds a Water Access Licence for groundwater in the Upper Macquarie Alluvial Aquifer, which is also subject to a water sharing plan. ASM will only be licenced to extract an amount of groundwater that does not impact adversely on other groundwater users.
Much of the water onsite will be recycled and reused. The use of licence-acquired water will have no impact on the town’s water supply. Alkane will continue to improve its water efficiency and reduce, reuse and recycle.
How much water will the Dubbo Project use each year?
At the time of the project approval, Alkane received approval to use 4,000 Megalitres of water per year. There are 649,941 Megalitres of water held under water licences in the Macquarie/Cudgegong Rivers. Approximately 40% of the volume of those licences is held by the NSW and Federal Governments as “environmental water”, that is the amount of water determined by the governments required to be released for a “healthy” river system.
Over the last 7 years at ANSTO we have been constantly refining the process and trialling new processes for recycling water as clearly any saving of water is of benefit.
Agriculture uses approximately 40% of the water available in High-Security licences. Water used for irrigation-based agriculture in the Macquarie Valley, e.g. cotton farming, use 6-8 ML of water per hectare per year. The water required to process 1 million tonnes of DP ore, if used for cotton farming, would irrigate 500ha to 666ha of cotton.
A detailed report on Water Availability, Purchasing and Potential Impacts are contained in Appendix 7 of the EIS.
In the event of a drought, will the mine get water at the expense of the town?
Town water supplies are allocated water preferentially over other users, even to holders of high-security water licences. Whilst high-security water licences generally have a full allocation, in the event of extended drought or other extraordinary circumstances, the allocation available to high-security water licence holders may be reduced while supplies are maintained to town water supplies.
Allocations to general security water licences will vary depending on the water available in Burrendong Dam. Water accounts are reset on 1 July each year.
What checks are in place to account for the effect of climate change/rainfall on recharge of rivers and aquifers?
Water is a finite resource. There is no ‘new’ water available to mining companies. Mining has to compete with other industries and water uses for access to water on the open market. Water has been made by government into a tradable asset.
Water sharing plans administered by NSW Office of Water are monitored to ensure that water extraction levels do not tip towards unsustainability. If aquifers and rivers do not get recharged there is presently an ability to reduce all allocations to ensure aquifers are not damaged by over-extraction.
What are the chances that local groundwater or drinking water is affected by contamination?
Dubbo Project: The chance of water contamination by the DP is negligible. The risk was identified very early in the project assessment and has been mitigated through leading practice engineering design and controls.Leak detection and recovery systems will be in place for the liquid and solid residue storage facilities. The project’s solid and liquid waste storage facilities are designed to accommodate a one in ten thousand year rain event.A site Water Management Plan, which includes an erosion and sediment control plan, will be implemented as part of the first phase of construction earthworks.
The introduction of forced evaporation to remove and recycle water will ensure processing residues are further from Wambangalang Creek than the closest evaporation pond formally in the original design. Processing residues will not be intrinsically affected.
Is radiation an issue at the Dubbo Project (DP)?
In short, no. These rocks have been weathering within the local environment for millions of years (the orebody is 182 million years old) without causing any harm.
The ore that will be mined at the DP is weakly radioactive with traces of uranium (100 ppm) and thorium (350 ppm). These radiation levels are extremely low and the expected dose over a whole year at the closest residences to the mine will be 0.03mSv which is less than one chest x-ray or a flight from Sydney to London.
What happens to the uranium in the waste rock?
The very low amounts of uranium found in the ore will remain on site as the left over processed ore (tailings) will be secured in a carefully designed/engineered residue storage facility.
The trace amounts of uranium and thorium (along with other waste products)will be diluted with salts and/or neutralised with limestone, making it even lower in concentration than the original ore and no longer classified as radioactive.Along with other waste materials, it will be stored on site in double-lined waste facilities. Uranium will not be recovered or stored.
Will radiation harm employees? How will they be protected?
What is the risk of radioactive material from the DP contaminating areas outside of the mine site?
Negligible. The naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) levels at the DP are extremely low. These rocks have been weathering within the local environment for millions of years without causing any measurable harm. All waste rock will be treated to produce radiation levels below those of the natural environment and stored safely on site in double-lined long-term storage facilities. No radioactive material will be transported away from the DP site.
Specialist environmental consultants have undertaken a series of modelling projects using data from baseline air quality monitoring collected from 10 locations around the project site. This enabled us to understand how much dust (from mined ore) will be produced by mining and processing and how it will be distributed around the DP site, and confirm that there will be minimal impact.
A detailed review of potential exposure for workers, the general public and local biota is provided in the EIS and Response to Submissions. In summary, on assessment by a radiation expert commissioned by Alkane, the risk of adverse impact to those living in the immediate vicinity was determined to be extremely small, given that the maximum likely dose of radiation (generated by the DP) would be <0.03mS/year. In Australia, the average annual dose of radiation received by an adult is approximately 1.5-2mSv/yr (Radiation Health &Safety Advisory Council (2005). Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in Australia: Issues for Discussion 17 August 2005. Report prepared by the CEO of ARPANSA (p. 8)).
A comprehensive assessment is detailed in the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) sections 2.10 (Air Emissions Management), 4.3 (Assessment And Management Of Key Environmental Issues – Air Quality) and 4.4 (Assessment And Management Of Key Environmental Issues – Radiation).
- the EIS Explained – Emissions including dust
- Alkane’s “Uranium and radiation at the DZP FACTS“
- Responses to the Public Submissions to the DZP Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
How does Alkane support the local community?
What measures are/will be in place to control dust?
Tomingley Gold Operations: TGO is aware of being a contributor of additional dust in the air as the result of mining operations, particularly in the hotter, drier and windier months. To address this, TGO has developed a detailed site-specific procedure to manage dust in accordance with the conditions of operation. TGO has also commenced rehabilitation of disturbed areas where practical to reduce the footprint that can potentially generate dust.
Dubbo Project: The Environment Impact Statement (EIS) considers the predicted impact of dust produced by drilling and blasting on air quality.Water trucks, with dust suppressant, if needed, are planned to be used. Alkane also plans to rehabilitate disturbed areas as soon as practical to reduce the footprint that can potentially generate dust.
What measures are/will be in place to control noise?
Tomingley Gold Operations: Noise emissions from the site are controlled through a combination of measures – including planning to control locations and times of noisy activity, and the construction of noise bunds to attenuate noise.
Dubbo Project: The noise levels at the project were modelled for the EIS and upper limits set by the regulator in its approval. These limits are used in the design of the processing facility to ensure sufficient noise control measures will be in place.
Are you going to transport hazardous material around Dubbo?
Some of the reagents required for the DP will be classified as Dangerous Goods and will be subject to strict rules and regulation for transportation on the state network of roads and storage on site. All goods will be transported by contractually committed, appropriately licensed and experienced operators.
Dangerous goods (petroleum, anhydrous ammonia, explosives, acid etc) already travel through Dubbo daily. This notwithstanding, and responding to issues raised over transport of dangerous goods following exhibition of the EIS, ASM commissioned a Traffic Hazard Assessment which concluded that any hazards associated with the transport of reagents and products could be appropriately managed. It is further noted that as part of the licensing requirements for transport of dangerous goods under the Australian Dangerous Goods Code, a transporter must prepare a detailed route specific transport risk assessment. This will be undertaken by the transporter for each reagent once supplier agreements are in place.
ASM will upgrade the Obley Road from the Newell Highway intersection to Toongi Road and the mine site. The Obley Road will be widened, straightened, flattened and have new bridges and culverts installed.
What controls will the company implement to prevent dirty water runoff entering natural water courses?
What are the socio-economic benefits of mining to the community?
Alkane is keen to assist regional communities to flourish and become more resilient. Through employment of both a local and specialist technical workforce at each of our sites, as well as the engagement of local services and industries and investment in local infrastructure, the local economy is boosted by the presence of mining operations.
Now in its fourth year, Tomingley Gold Operations employs a workforce of around 200 people, including around 40 contractors, of which all but a handful live locally. Not only has the plant provided jobs for many locals, but it has brought new families to Dubbo and surrounding towns. Moreover, at least one business involved with the construction of TGO has established premises in Dubbo and continues to service TGO and other mining operations in the region. In addition, the area is benefitting from improved and new infrastructure as a result of the operation. For example, TGO funded the upgrade of a section of Tomingley West Road, which services the mine; TGO is also currently exploring options with Narromine Shire Council for a long-term supply of raw water to the local storage dam. The establishment of the Tomingley Gold Operations Community Fund has also made major contributions to the funding of local community infrastructure and equipment projects.
Once construction of the Dubbo Project gets underway, Australian Strategic Materials predicts the construction workforce will be around 400 people (consulting engineers, construction teams, and a relatively small owner’s team) during the two-year construction period – generating significant economic activity within Dubbo and surrounds. Upgrades to local infrastructure – including selected roads, power supply, water supply, gas supply – will also take place.
- creation of 250 permanent jobs, most sourced locally
- approximately $50M pa in salaries/wages, utilities, plus other suppliers into local economy
- additional flow-on effects to other ancillary industries
- future access to substantial power supply and to gas pipeline.
- state royalties of $9.5M pa
- annual payroll to the State $34M pa
- corporate taxation of $70M pa