12/12/2007 - 22:00

EPA nod boost for Magellan

12/12/2007 - 22:00

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Magellan Metals Pty Ltd has successfully negotiated a hurdle in its bid to export lead carbonate from Fremantle Port, with the Environmental Protection Authority this week recommending the miner be allowed to export lead from the port in bulk bags.

Magellan Metals Pty Ltd has successfully negotiated a hurdle in its bid to export lead carbonate from Fremantle Port, with the Environmental Protection Authority this week recommending the miner be allowed to export lead from the port in bulk bags.

The EPA’s recommendation is contingent on Magellan meeting a series of risk-reduction conditions for packing and transporting the lead, as well as requirements for air and soil quality monitoring. 

EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel said the risk of escape of fugitive lead dust was very low, in light of the conditions imposed.

“With those five key risk reduction areas, monitoring of the environment and public reporting, the EPA is of the view that the export of lead concentrate from Fremantle will be managed in an environmentally acceptable way,” he said.

“What we’re recommending here will reduce the risk of an accident or an incident to low, low levels.”

Under the EPA’s conditions, the lead will be packed into double laminated bulk bags and sealed in shipping containers at Magellan’s mine near Wiluna, before being trucked to Leonora and loaded onto trains bound for Fremantle Port. 

Monitoring of the packing process, as well as air and soil testing, will be undertaken by an accredited inspector from the National Association of Testing Authorities, appointed by the Department of Environment and Conservation and funded by Magellan.

The testing sites for air quality will include Magellan’s mine site and Fremantle Port, while soil samples will be tested along the length of the transport route.

The EPA has recommended that the results of air and soil testing be publicly reported, as part of a health, hygiene and environmental management program.

It has also developed an emergency response plan, in conjunction with the Fire and Emergency Services of WA, which outlines procedures to be followed in the event of an accident during transport or loading of lead.

Dr Vogel said while he understood there would be concerns from the community, given it was not possible to ensure zero risk for packing and transportation of the lead carbonate, the EPA’s conditions would mitigate risk to an acceptable level. 

“[Magellan] clearly understands…they are on notice,” he said.

“It’d be fair to say that the company recognises that it is going to be under enormous regulatory and public scrutiny for environmental performance.”

The Department of Health and the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection have also approved the containment system proposed by Magellan.

There is a two-week appeal period following the release of the EPA recommendations, after which Environment Minister David Templeman will make the final decision on Magellan’s proposal.

Magellan was suspended from exporting its lead from Esperance port in March after thousands of bird deaths in the region were linked to lead dust pollution.

A parliamentary inquiry into the environmental contamination was held, with a report tabled in parliament in September attributing responsibility to the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Esperance Port Authority, Magellan, and trucking company BIS Industrial Logistics.

The inquiry committee made 192 findings and 46 recommendations in its report.

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