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Don’t forget to read : "In the Press" for all current and past bauxite articles covered by the Toodyay Herald!!!

Alarming trend ignores scientific data

Doug Blandford*


THERE is an alarming trend developing in the Toodyay Shire regarding the level of technical expertise and a lack of fundamental scientific data being put forward in support of applications for development projects which include waste disposal, gravel extraction licences and road upgrades.

It all began with Opal Vale, back around 2014, when an application to use an abandoned clay pit for waste disposal was submitted.

Despite submissions from highly regarded technical consultants and experts in their fields,the waste disposal project was approved.

It is very significant that not one of the Strategy Objectives of The Western Australian Waste Strategy addresses considers in any form, site selection criteria for waste disposal sites for landfill.

In December 2017 I submitted a report to Mundaring Shire Council pointing out that the environmental management program put forward by Trico Resources for a very substantial upgrade for a gravel pit expansion, fell well short of the standards expected and lacked any robust scientific evidence to support the proposed program.

Some three years later, I made a presentation to the Mundaring Shire Council regarding this same application.

Last month the council decision was appealed, and the State Administrative Tribunal has directed the council to reverse its decision and approve the application with additional conditions recommended.  But nothing has really changed.

Further, I have just reviewed the worst Extractive Industry Licence application I have ever read in my 55 years’ experience.

In terms of the physical environment, the potential environmental impacts and the associated rehabilitation and revegetation management strategies,the report also falls well short of the standards expected.

This application was submitted by Capitary No3 Pty Ltd (Midland Brick) to extend its clay extraction project at Salt Valley Road, Hoddys Well.

It seems that the submission was written by people with expertise in town planning, as there was no science supporting the application.  Only four pages were devoted to Site Description describing the bio-physical environment, yet 21 pages are devoted to the Statutory Framework.

The absence of science-based evidence in support of this application and the apparent reliance on statutory requirements as being the panacea for project approval, is an embarrassing admission of ignorance and incompetence by the proponent and its consultants.

And now, it is impossible to walk around Toodyay and not hear the local folk questioning the extent of vegetation clearing associated with the Main Roads WA roadworks being carried out in the Toodyay Shire.

What is more, I suspect that there will be a lot more of this sort of activity over the coming years.

This will be particularly so if both the gravel and clay extraction licences are approved, Chalice Mining starts developing its Julimar ore body and any number of the, up to six, organisations with exploration leases in the Toodyay area and surrounds, start getting results.

Once this happens, Toodyay Road will become an industrial artery.

What is of major concern is that back in December 2005 Main Roads was granted a State-wide Clearing Permit CPS 818 for the clearing of native vegetation related to standard project activities and where the proposed clearing of native vegetation isn’t considered to have a significant environmental impact.

There can be little doubt that there is an increasing level of corporate arrogance creeping into development projects.

Why is this so?  Don’t these organisations understand the fundamentals of environmental management, and particularly the basic principles of revegetation?

Main Roads quotes its Rip and Respread technique in environmental management.  I have seen some very impressive failures from the application of this technique on roadworks in the region, yet the MRWA website notes: “We are committed to protecting and enhancing the environment, heritage values and social values in all of our activities.”

Before you start any sort of revegetation program, spend some time understanding the system or the physical framework that you are going to disturb, or the system that you are going to revegetate, such as a road batter or waste rock dump.

If you don’t understand the physical framework of the pre-disturbance state, and the component roles in supporting vegetation, then you will never successfully emulate these conditions in a revegetation program.

It is rather sad, that in this day and age, this concept is poorly understood as is evidenced by those who insist on dominating nature.

We cannot dominate nature – and we cannot manufacture nature.  But, if we understand the physical framework of a site, and the systems that have evolved over the past several million years, then we can, quite legitimately work with nature.

* Doug Blandford is a Toodyay-based Environmental Earth Scientist.

Massive gravel pit gets green light

SIX YEARS ago, when AHMAG began raising awareness about proposed open-cut bauxite mining in our area, extractive industries such as gravel, clay, granite and sand quarrying were not on our radar.

In the past, extractive industry sites were relatively small-scale projects sourcing local products for the domestic market with low-level truck movements and generally minor environmental impacts.

The recent approval of Trico Resources massive gravel pit at 3650 Toodyay Road Bailup and a pending application to increase clay extraction at Lot M1919 Salt Valley Road Hoddys Well signals the shift from small quarrying enterprises to large-scale projects resembling mining.

Last October Mundaring Shire Council refused Trico’s bid to increase gravel extraction from 47,000 to 950,000 tonnes a year and, as expected, the company appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT).

The council sought further investigation of the impacts on water resources, dust management, increased traffic movements and loss of community amenity, and after months of mediation at SAT voted to approve Trico’s application on April 13.

The approval was granted subject to 28 conditions but the increase in truck movements from 20 to 132 a day had already been approved by the WA Planning Commission and could not be factored into the SAT discussions.

Before the gravel trucks start rolling six days a week from 7am to 5pm, Trico will have to make major upgrades to the pit’s entry and exit points and seal a 100m access road to the site.

If approved by the Toodyay Shire Council, the Capitary No. 3 Pty Ltd’s (Midland Brick) application to increase clay extraction from three pits in Hoddys Well to 100,000 tonnes a year will result in a 20m deep pit at the end of the 10-year project and add further truck movements to Toodyay Road.

Depending on demand, Midland Brick’s Clay Extraction Management Plan states that five to 10 trucks per hour will be required over 90 days throughout the year.

If approval is granted, the clay trucks will operate from 7am to 5pm on weekdays excluding public holidays.

Main Roads WA has identified Toodyay Road as a “strategic transport corridor” and in last month’s Herald defended the clearing of 55ha of native vegetation during the roadworks on the grounds of “safety for road users”.

Slowly but surely the natural environment is coming under threat from mining proposals and ramped-up extractive industries and locals should be concerned not only for their safety on Toodyay Road but for what we are losing for future generations.

If you care about any of these issues please step up and become a member. It’s only $10 a year.

Chalice buys more land

ON April 19 Chalice Mining Ltd announced it was in the process of acquiring four more private properties south of the Julimar State Forest where it has discovered significant deposits of nickel, copper, gold and platinum group elements.

Chalice is offering $11.25 million in cash and just over one million ordinary company shares to secure the blocks which cover 723ha.

Once these properties are transferred, the company will own 1688ha (17km2) where it can commence drilling to verify the find.

Campaign stalwarts made life members

IN RECOGNITION of six years of tireless campaigning to stop open-cut mining within a 100km radius of Perth, AHMAG recently made Morangup residents Hope and David Jones the organisation’s first life members.

Apart from spreading the word at local agricultural shows and swap meets, the Joneses collected petition signatures and sold plants on Sundays at the Midland Farmers’ Markets to raise funds for our group.

Their stalwart weekly attendance meant 4.30am starts in all weathers and during the Covid restrictions when larger events were cancelled their fundraising kept our group afloat.

We sincerely thank them and wish Hope and David “happy trails” as they head north for a well-earned break.

Chalice appointment

IN MID-MARCH Chalice Mining Ltd appointed Dr Soolim (Soo) Carney as General Manager Environment and Community.

Chalice hopes that Dr Carney’s appointment will “accelerate development of the globally significant Julimar Platinum Group Element (PGE)-Nickel-Copper-Cobalt-Gold discovery” in and around the Julimar State Forest.

Dr Carey will be negotiating the project’s regulatory approvals process and will oversee Chalice’s environment and community strategy.

In the past 20 years Dr Carey has worked for Alcoa, BHP and Woodside Petroleum and has been instrumental in delivering environmental approvals for several major projects in WA.

It’s far too soon to speculate on Dr Carney’s work with Chalice and what it will mean for the long-term protection of the environment, but we’ll keep readers posted.

Gravel pit update

WHEN there is money to be made and local councils such as Mundaring knock back projects such as the Swan Gravel/Trico Resources gravel pit expansion in Bailup and Satterley group’s North Stoneville housing development, that’s not the end of it.

Both Swan Gravel/Trico Resources and Satterley have taken their cases to overturn council’s decisions to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) where they remain in the mediation phase.

As they say: "It’s not over until the SAT lady sings."

Hope and Dave Jones

Hope and David Jones

‘No short cuts in exploration phase’ – Chalice

LAST month AHMAG members made a trip to the big smoke to meet Chalice Mining representatives in their West Perth office. Our initial request for Chalice’s Stage 1 Conservation Management Plan and fact sheets led to an invitation to meet with Managing Director Alex Dorsch, General Manager of Corporate Development Bruce Kendall, Communications Manager Amelia Walker and Environmental Consultant Kristy Sell.

As a mining awareness group, we are keen to establish open lines of communication with the company which is exploring one of the world’s most significant discoveries of nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group elements in the Julimar region north west of Toodyay.Retired environmental earth scientist Doug Blandford agreed to accompany us to guide us through the technical aspects of the meeting and to review the conservation management plan which the company provided.

Our past experience with Bauxite Alumina Joint Venture (BAJV) which planned open-cut bauxite mining in our area resulted in a jaundiced view of mining proponents’ claims of minimal environmental impacts. At a well-attended meeting in Morangup Hall in 2015, BAJV said the project’s water requirements for dust suppression would equate to that used to irrigate a small citrus orchard. Thankfully no such nonsense was touted at the meeting with Chalice which recognises that best practice must be applied during the exploration phase if it is to gain approval to verify promising ore bodies within the Julimar State Forest.

If granted approval to drill in the forest, Chalice proposes to use three track-mounted drill rigs which have very low ground bearing pressure and therefore will have less impact on vegetation and do not require access roads to be cut. Chalice is acutely aware that exploration of an environmentally sensitive area so close to Perth will attract close scrutiny of its operations.
    “There will be no short cuts and we intend to do it right,” Mr Dorsch said.

AHMAG left the meeting with the impression that Chalice intends to do the right thing by the environment while it is in charge of the exploration phase.
    “We hope to instil the culture of responsibility if the project is on sold,” Mr Dorsch said.

Pumped up miner to meet AHMAG

IN EARLY December 2020 Chalice Gold Mines Ltd changed its name to Chalice Minerals Ltd to reflect the discovery in the Julimar area of nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group elements and gold.

By its own projected timeline, from discovery to ultimately mining the rare minerals, Chalice is not just on track but well ahead in terms of gaining State government approval for on-ground exploration in the Julimar State Forest.

Chalice reported to the ASX in early January that the Minister for Environment approved “initial non-ground-disturbing activities” in the forest which the company says will be governed under “the approved Stage 1 Conservation Management Plan (CPM)”.

AHMAG could not source this document and wrote to Chalice requesting a copy the day after the announcement was made.

“We welcome Chalice Mining’s assurance to consult closely with interested community groups and look forward to receiving the document,” AHMAG said.

Chalice responded and extended an invitation to AHMAG to meet company representatives at their West Perth office.

“Our intention is to establish an open line of communication with your group to ensure awareness of our activities and plans,” Chalice Communications Manager Amelia Walker said.

“Whilst it is not standard practice and not intended as a publicly available document, we can also provide a copy of the Stage 1 Management Plan at the meeting as requested,” Ms Walker said.

AHMAG members will meet with Chalice mid-month and the outcome of the meeting will be reported in the March edition of The Herald.

Gravel pit update

LAST October, Mundaring Shire Council rejected Swan Gravel/Trico Resources application to increase gravel extraction at 3650 Toodyay Road Bailup from 47,000 to 950,000 tonnes a year, and as expected the company has approached the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) to overturn the decision.

At the council meeting on January 28 Toodyay Shire Council voted unanimously to write to SAT requesting that the shire be heard and to request making a submission “in respect of the proposed intensification” of the project.

“This is requested on the basis that Shire of Toodyay constituents in the Morangup locality may potentially be adversely affected by the proposal on the natural environment, available water resources and the potential traffic impact on Toodyay Road...,” the shire said.

Gravel pit knocked back – for now

AFTER a two-year 10-month delay, Swan Gravel/Trico Resources’ application to accelerate gravel extraction from 47,000 tonnes to 950,000 tonnes a year at 3650 Toodyay Road Bailup finally came before Mundaring Shire Council on October 13.

In a surprise decision the council voted 7-3 to reject a staff recommendation to approve the expansion which would increase traffic on Toodyay Road from 20 to 132 trucks a day.

Prior to the decision to reject the application, four public deputations opposing the project were presented including one from Toodyay Shire President Rosemary Madacsi who spoke at the invitation of Mundaring Shire President John Daw.      Cr Madacsi reaffirmed Toodyay’s concerns and objections to the proposal on the following grounds: additional traffic and road safety concerns on Toodyay Road; potential amenity impacts on Morangup residents, and potential environmental impacts on the water table. In the event of shire approval, Cr Madacsi reiterated the shire’s position of January 2018 that “strenuous conditions” be imposed in relation to traffic management/limits on truck movements, hours of operation, noise control, dust management, water table protection, regular compliance inspections and requested that emphasis on the word ‘strenuous’ be magnified 20 times to reflect the change in scale since the Toodyay Shire’s submission.

Retired earth scientist Doug Blandford presented the shire with a 30-point detailed submission on the failure to address numerous environmental impacts and called on the shire to ask the applicant to present “a serious and professional management program, in terms of water management and rehabilitation procedures and protocols”.

Morangup resident John Morrell, an environmental professional specialising in the area of approvals, queried whether Federal legislation may be contravened if 100 trees - the nesting habitat of endangered Carnaby’s Cockatoos - were removed. Mr Morrell also disputed the shire staff’s finding that the gravel pit would have “no visual impact” and informed the meeting that the existing operation is already clearly visible to the 600 motorists using Dryandra Road daily.

Brett Ashlin, who lives in the ‘small white house’ which backs onto the gravel pit raised concerns about traffic impacts, noise, dust in his drinking water as well as falls in property prices.

Trico Resources representative Greg Kendall was the only member of the public to speak for the proposal which he said would enable the applicant to compete for larger contracts such as EastLink (Orange Route) and remove trucks from Mundaring town site.

Prior to the council voting to reject the application, Deputy Shire President Amy Collins raised concerns about water availability for dust suppression and the increase in truck movements. Cr Collins said that if the upper limit of gravel extraction was implemented, it would result in an extra three trucks passing through Gidgegannup every 12 minutes.

CrDarrell Jones supported the application because “all planning approvals are in place.”   “I agree that water issues and run-off are a concern, but I am very concerned we’re on thin ground here,” he said.

Whenever a development application is refused, the council must provide reasons for its decision which in this case are: environmental concerns; loss of amenity; traffic impacts and, no confirmation that the proposal will comply with all the required State regulations.

To date, there is no news on whether Swan Gravel/Trico Resources will contest the decision at the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT).

Existing gravel stockpiles are clearly visible from Dryandra Road and Red Brook Circle where this picture was taken.

 

Notice of Annual General Meeting

Copper rides high on back of pandemic

COPPER is one of the resources recently discovered in the Julimar region north of Toodyay where exploration companies are rushing to gain access to their pending tenements, including one in the Julimar State Forest.

The mineral is now a far-more-valuable commodity at $8 per kilogram having surged 45 per cent since the March 12 announcement of the Covid-19 pandemic. The price rise is due in part to copper’s potential to reduce the transmission of the virus in high-traffic areas such as hospitals and schools. We’re not talking solid copper doorhandles and taps, but about coating existing objects with copper using recently developed technology. A stainless steel door handle can be coated in about five minutes at a cost of approximately $100.

A University of Southampton (UK) microbiologist has been studying copper’s antimicrobial effects for more than 20 years and found that in the case of Covid 229E, a relative of Covid-19, the virus remained infectious on stainless steel and glass for five days whereas on a copper surface it disappeared within minutes. However Covid-19 is a tougher customer and can remain active on a copper surface for hours.

For thousands of years the ancient Egyptians and Chinese have known about copper’s ‘disinfectant’ properties – long before the discovery of germs or viruses. While gold and silver also have antibacterial properties, copper’s specific atomic makeup contains a free electron which eliminates a virus more quickly.

In business circles copper is known as Dr Copper – not for its curative properties – but as an indicator of how well the economy is doing. At the moment the Australian finances are at rock bottom and the recent surge in the copper price is closely linked to the closure of copper mines in Chile and Peru where workers have been affected by the pandemic.

It’s curious that a virus can lead to a price hike of a mining commodity such as copper and AHMAG will be monitoring the progress of local tenement applications in a region which promises high yields of not just copper but also nickel and platinum group elements.

Mining is propping up a cash-strapped economy and it’s odds-on that many proposed mining projects may be fast-tracked to boost the country’s coffers.

It’s up to us all to monitor these projects to ensure that shortcuts, which could negatively impact our health and environment, aren’t taken.

AGM – memberships due

THE AVON and Hills Mining Awareness Group’s AGM will be held at 10am on Saturday September 26 in the Morangup Community Hall in Wallaby Way, Morangup.

To be eligible to vote at the AGM memberships must paid to either the postal address below or to the AHMAG account BSB 633-000, account number 152776654.

Donations are always welcome to support our group’s efforts to keep you informed about local mining proposals.

In the meantime, stay in touch at http://www.facebook.com/avonandhills or write to PO Box 111 Gidgegannup WA 6083.

 

Where will the water come from for Julimar nickel mines?

Doug Blandford*

THREE more companies, Australian Silica Quartz Group Ltd, DevEx Resources Limited which are now associated through an earn-in agreement, and Cassini Resources Limited have thrown their hats into the ring and joined the exploration bandwagon in what is now known as the Julimar Nickel Province.

Cassini Resources is also drilling for nickel copper cobalt and platinum group elements about 20km south of New Norcia, approximately 45km north of the Chalice discovery at Julimar.

Once a mineral province or complex is recognised, and multiple exploration/ mining companies are involved in its development, the potential for environmental impacts increases exponentially.

The reasons for this are many and varied, and there is also the possibility that there could be three individual nickel-sulphide mining ventures located along the Western Darling Plateau all within 100km from the Perth CBD.

Economic viability may suggest that infrastructure for transport, processing, and refining, could be shared.

It would seem logical to set up a central and major processing facility but differences in the mineralogy of each ore body will almost certainly influence this as differences in ore type and quality may require different processing systems.

But it would also seem logical for each mine site to have, at least, its own crushing and concentrator system which would then require each mine site to have the appropriate supporting infrastructure.

The characteristics of the various ore bodies, and the volumes of concentrate needing transport, will both influence the value of having a central smelter.

Such a plant will require larger and individual processing area stockpiles for ore. This then further complicates the problems of on-site roasting, such as stack emission air quality and plume dispersion dynamics.

On-site smelting also introduces the need to transport large volumes of refined ore product to the coast for shipping by either rail or road.

The reality is that there is the potential for up to three nickel-sulphide mines to be developed in the Julimar Nickel Province with each site having its own concentration and refining plants and transportation systems.

All this would occur within 100km of the Perth CBD, so let’s talk about water supply.

After air quality issues, and that includes stack emissions and fugitive dust from mining and processing operations, water supply will become a major issue for any proposed nickel-sulphide mining venture in the Perth Hills.

CSIRO data indicate that for the year 2020 the mining industry in WA will use 940 million tonnes of water. That’s a lot of water.

The need for water is a double-edged sword.

Finding it and getting access to it is one thing. Extracting it and delivering it to the mine area, without impacting the human and biological environment is another.

Water availability is also diminishing. The discharge of the Avon River at Toodyay in 2019 was approximately 44.04 billion litres which is well below the long-term median of 64.18 billion litres.

A well-established nickel mining and processing operation south-east of Wiluna uses approximately 11 million tonnes of water a year, water that is sourced mainly from three remote bore fields and pit dewatering. Down south, the Ravensthorpe laterite nickel operation pumps water from the ocean for its use.

The area of the local nickel-sulphide discoveries is in the western Yilgarn Craton which is not a groundwater area. Further, the aquifers in the Swan Coastal Plain should not be available to the mining industry because of falling water tables.

Under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act, 1914, the general area of exploration and potential mining development is within a Proclaimed Surface Water Area covering the Avon River System, and the Avon River Catchment Area.

So, where will the water come from to support a single nickel-sulphide mine located some 18km inland from the Darling Scarp? And what if there are three new nickel mining ventures?

It is reasonable to suggest that the total water requirement could be anywhere between 25 to 35 million tonnes of water per year.

* Toodyay resident Doug Blandford is a retired Environmental Earth Scientist.

 

 

 

Candidates give view on mining

LAST October AHMAG asked the nine candidates standing for election for their views on open-cut mining within a 100km radius of Perth.

This month, three candidates are running in the by election on Friday July 31 and we asked them for their views on both open-cut mining and whether exploration/mining should be allowed in State forests and reserves.

While the State government decides if mining will be permitted, the local shire council can contribute its views on whether mining should be allowed in State forests such as in Julimar.

Candidate April Ashley “opposes fracking and whatever (forms of mining) may cause water problems which could affect society in general and especially farmers and their crops”.

“As regards open-cut mining which leaves a great scar on the landscape, I oppose it when it affects a community’s health, lifestyle and heritage sites.

“I don’t believe it is necessary to obliterate forestland which houses a diverse variety of flora and fauna for the sake of financial gain for local and international companies.”

Keith Boase lived in Kalgoorlie for 16 years and has first-hand experience of living in a region impacted by mining.

“It’s highly destructive and we need to look at what we want for future generations.

“I am an environmentalist and am against mining in high-quality farming areas.

“Tourism and farming need to be sustained in Toodyay and we shouldn’t trade this for short-term gain.”

Mick McKeown says he “is not in favour of mining in national parks and nature reserves and is also not in favour of the proposed strip-mining in the Morangup area”.

“If large-scale mining is proposed in the shire, my preferences is that the Toodyay Shire Council should provide the lead by taking positive steps to negotiate with the proponents to achieve binding agreements that provide social and economic benefits to the community of Toodyay.”

AHMAG urges all electors to vote and to carefully consider which candidate will ensure that our pristine environment stays protected.

April Ashley
April Ashley
Keith Boase
Keith Boase
Mick McKeown
Mick McKeown

 

 

Waste dumps and tailings in Julimar?

By Doug Blandford*

I READ with interest the article in the May edition of The Toodyay Herald regarding the results from exploration drilling in the Julimar area west of Toodyay.

There is no doubt that the initial results confirming the presence of nickel, copper and the platinum group elements (PGEs) including palladium, is significant in terms of both supply and demand at a global scale.

There are many issues in having a highly attractive ore body in close proximity to Perth and port facilities.

Such proximity suggests massive cost savings for the miner.

Any mining operation associated with the extraction, processing, and refining of a nickel sulphide ore body, and particularly one containing the platinum group elements will have a suite of potential environmental impacts.

Such a mine will require waste dumps and tailing storage facilities and the infrastructure associated with a mine of this type.

This means a crushing plant and a concentrator/drying plant.

The concentrated ore then needs to be processed to extract the minerals and the type of ore body suggests that this would involve two stages, a pyrometallurgy stage and a hydrometallurgy stage.

These are smelting and flotation plants.

They are big and they are complex.

The presence of such infrastructure in the hills environment of the ore body, would change the local area to an industrial complex.

The project is very much in its infancy at this stage, but the ore still has to be treated to produce a saleable product.

If the processing does not take place on site, then it has to be transported to a facility that can accommodate the required infrastructure.

A lot really hinges on the processing and refining systems technology available, and appropriate for specific mineral extraction.

The presence of palladium and associated minerals adds a further complex system to the extraction process.

At the time of writing this letter, the spot price of palladium was about $92,000 a kilogram.

There will be some interesting trade-offs between on-site processing and refining and sending a concentrate elsewhere for refining.

Any form of on-site pyrometallurgy must be examined very closely in terms of stack emissions and plume dispersion over the proximal Swan Coastal Plain and the eastern and northern suburbs of Perth.

What we would call the ‘zone of influence’.

Experience from plume dispersion modelling from the Gidji Roaster, which was decommissioned in mid-2015, showed that even from this site, which was 15km north of Kalgoorlie on the Goldfields Highway, a contaminant plume (the roaster stack was 180m tall) moved down to the coast and out to sea, only to be returned to the coastal plain with the south-westerlies later in the day.

The next stage of this project will involve further exploration drilling and ‘infill’ drilling to tighten up on ore body dynamics.

If exploration moves into the Julimar State Forest, the State regulators must require strict environmental management conditions as part of the approval to drill within the boundaries of the forest.

As a minimum, a botanist and zoologist should accompany all exploration activities to ensure that the habitat of the now well-established Chuditch, or Western Quoll (Dasyurusgeoffroii) is not disturbed and that exploration activities are not carried out within 50m of rare flora.

This will indicate how seriously the regulators, at both the State and Federal levels, will be in addressing environmental protection and management of the potential impacts resulting from project implementation.

And air pollution of the Perth environment on the coastal plain and the western Darling Plateau is just one of them.

* Toodyay resident Doug Blandford is a retired Environmental Earth Scientist.

Coming to terms with nickel terms

THE LIFTING of the intra-state border at Morangup and Toodyay Roads on May 18 gave AHMAG members the chance to catch up and discuss the recent blanket pegging of 2300sq/km of Toodyay Shire by Chalice Gold Mines for nickel, copper and platinum group element (PGE) exploration.

It’s a rare discovery and the exploration company’s haste to secure the valuable resources means AHMAG has to come up to speed about some of the terms used in the exploration phase of mining.

The confirmed find on private land on Keating Road in Julimar is known as a ‘greenfield’ site, an unchartered area where minerals are found where they were previously not thought to exist.

Chalice is using two types of drilling methods – diamond and reverse circulation (RC).

Diamond drilling probes the contents of ore deposits by withdrawing a small core of rock, usually about 47mm in diameter, from the ore body for geologists to analyse.

RC drilling uses dual rod drill holes which allow the drill cuttings to be transported to the surface for analysis.

The company has also conducted an electro-magnetic (EM) aerial survey of a 24km-long target, 10km north of the confirmed resource but still needs to get State Government approval to gain access to verify the potential resource which is located in the Julimar State Forest.

While EM surveys are a quick and economical method of locating metallic conductors, they are not foolproof, and on-ground testing is needed to verify the find.

The type of ore identified in the Julimar area is nickel sulphide.

Because the Julimar find has also identified copper and the PGEs palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, osmium and iridium, the area may be mined using a combination of both open-cut and underground mining.

Six years ago, AHMAG members were getting their heads around the extraction and processing of bauxite and examining its negative environmental impacts. We now have to investigate what effect nickel mining could have on our community and natural surroundings.

We will all have to closely monitor Chalice’s application to mine in a State forest where a vulnerable population of Chuditch (Western Quoll) live.

Hopefully we will soon be out and about at local events with new information on what impacts the Chalice project may have on the Avon Valley environment.

Chalice’s reverse circulation drilling rig in Julimar. Photo: Chalice Gold Mine’s website.

 

Chalice Gold Mines

Chalice Gold Mines’ recent application for 10 new exploration licences covering 2300sq/km in the Shire of Toodyay easily eclipses Yankuang’s bauxite tenements in our area.

The May edition of The Toodyay Herald ran a front page story (see below) outlining Chalice’s move to blanket peg the shire for nickel, cobalt, copper and palladium and provides an overview of the company’s aspirations to explore in environmentally sensitive areas including Julimar State forest which is close to Chalice’s 180sq/km live tenements in the West Toodyay area.

While the Julimar Project is in the early stages of exploration, the company told The Toodyay Herald that it would take from 4-8 months to gain State Government approval to drill in the forest and two to three years to establish if the resource is commercially viable for large-scale mining.

Toodyay environmental scientist Doug Blandford has advised AHMAG that:

“If the early work identified that the ‘resource’ would support a mine, and that markets were out there, then environmental investigations would be started. If done properly, this would take at least a couple of years and should, as a pre-mining minimum include:

  • Vegetation and flora
  • Fauna
  • Soil landscapes
  • Air quality
  • Local and regional light emission
  • Current climate and weather patterns
  • Surface hydrology
  • Surface water quality
  • Ground water resources
  • Groundwater quality
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Socioeconomic demographics
  • Land use for pastoral pursuits
  • Land use for national parks, reserves etc.
  • Pre-mining/disturbance noise environment
  • Air quality modelling associated with plume dispersion of pollutants, including stack emissions such as sulphur dioxide, dust and particulate matter

In coming months the negative impact of Covid-19 on the WA economy means the State government is more than likely to favourably view Chalice’s applications to explore in environmentally sensitive areas and we should all be concerned.

TOODYAY townsite and most of the shire has been blanket pegged for nickel after “spectacular” results from test drilling on a Julimar cattle farm two months ago. Chalice Gold Mines shares have skyrocketed 700 per cent last month amid claims that Julimar could become a major new nickel province of significant strategic importance for Australia. The Julimar find includes high-grade nickel, cobalt and copper which are “very important” metals for making batteries for Tesla and other electric cars, and palladium which is used in hydrogen fuel cells and to control vehicle pollution – all highly valuable commodities on world markets.

Chalice currently holds 180sq/km of active exploration tenements in the western part of the shire from Keating Road to Dewars Pool and has pegged a further 2300sq/km across covering most of the rest of the shire from Hoddys Well to Wattening, and Nunile to Lower Chittering and the border of Morangup. Chalice is chaired by mining entrepreneur Tim Goyder, brother of AFL Chair and former Wesfarmers, Qantas and Woodside chair Richard Goyder who owns Glendearg Farm on the Bindi-Bindi-Toodyay Road.

Initial results from about a dozen Chalice test holes drilled about 500m south of Julimar Road to a depth of 250m on an 800-acre Keating Road cattle farm were described this month by Chalice Managing Director Alex Dorschas “a once in 10 years discovery”.

“If this turns out to be what we think it is, it will be pretty substantial find of strategic interest for Western Australia,” said in an exclusive interview with The Herald.

“It looks like it could be a sizeable deposit of hundreds of millions of tonnes.”

Lower Chittering residents say they are concerned about increased traffic on Julimar Road if mining proceeds.

The Avon and Hills Mining Awareness Group (AHMAG) says it also has concerns about the Julimar project and is keeping a close watch on developments.

Mr Dorsch said his company had pegged most of the shire as a precaution to prevent rival companies pegging for the same minerals near the Keating Road discovery.

“It’s what miners do,” he said.

He said main ore body was thought to lie in the shire’s west and extend into Julimar State Forest, where Chalice conducted preliminary electromagnetic aerial surveys before seeking permits to start test drilling. The new area being sought includes part of the Avon Valley National Park and several conservation reserves which would require special State permission for further exploration drilling.

Mr Dorsch said the location was unique because it was near an existing heavy freight rail link to a coastal port and close enough to the city for miners to sleep in their own beds at home and commute to work instead of having to work Fly In-Fly Out at a remote minesite.

The Julimar location was valuable also because Australia was a more stable and safer country in which to operate than Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo, where most of the world’s cobalt is currently mined.

Further drilling would determine whether the Julimar ore body could be worked by underground mining or open cut.

Chalice currently has $25 million to fund further exploration. Mr Dorsch said it would take 4-8 months to gain State Government approval to drill in Julimar State Forest, and two or three years to know whether the ore deposit big enough to be commercially viable for large-scale mining.

 

Residents need a say on extractive industries

SHIRE councils can merely express their position on allowing open-cut mining in their area as the final decision on a mining proponent’s application is made by the WA state government.

However, when it comes to having a say on extractive industries, local government decides whether an application to quarry materials such as gravel, stone, clay and sand will be permitted.

AHMAG welcomes the recent opportunity to comment on Toodyay Shire Council’s draft Planning Policy No 23 ‘Extraction Raw materials’ and has made a submission outlining areas of concern which the current draft does not address.

The draft makes no reference to consultation and advertising requirements for development applications.

There are numerous instances across state shires where the advertising period for submissions was ill-timed (over Christmas) or too short or was placed in an inappropriate media outlet.

In other words, residents who will be directly impacted by the application know nothing about it until after the project is passed and work commences.

The draft policy has nothing relating to any requirements for extractive industry proponents or the shire to liaise with government agencies regarding environmental issues.

Particular areas of concern are the availability of water resources, noise, dust, weeds, dieback, vibrations from trucks and blasting, land clearing and drainage which can all have a negative impact on residents and the environment.

Toodyay Shire Council has the authority to set restrictions on the number of vehicle movements and operating times and should ensure the safety of all road users and lessen the impact on residents’ amenity.

The proposed massive gravel pit at 3650 Toodyay Road Bailup first came before the Mundaring Council in late December 2017 and it is still in limbo due to Main Roads concerns about an additional 132 heavy-vehicle movements per day.

By contrast, in August 2018 Toodyay Shire Council swiftly approved Boral’s application to increase granite extraction at Cobbler Pool Road from 50,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes a year which resulted in many more heavy-haulage trucks on Morangup and Toodyay Roads.

Boral is still awaiting the outcome of a scheme amendment to its proposal to change the resource zoning on the granite quarry at Red Hill to include a waste ‘recycling’ facility for building rubble.

The Gidgegannup Progress Association and West Gidgegannup Landowners believe the proposal is a step towards industrialising a resource area which would allow extractive industries to evade their responsibility to rehabilitate the land once the resource has been exhausted.

It’s heartening that the majority of current Toodyay councillors are concerned about the environment and the potential negative impacts of extractive industries projects and we expect them to closely scrutinise and query proponents’ applications.

Extractive industries are here to stay and council needs to ensure that stringent conditions are applied and monitored for compliance so industry and residents can co-exist harmoniously.

Next month we will report on Chalice Gold Mines’ recent discovery of a vast resource of nickel-copper palladium sulphide in the Julimar area near Toodyay.

As with all community organisations at this time, AHMAG has had its wings clipped in terms of fundraising activities so please consider becoming a member. It’s as cheap as chips, only $10 a year.

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