Lead miner Magellan Metals has been granted approval by the State government to resume transporting lead from its Mid West mine through Fremantle Port, but says it could be nearly a year before exports recommence.
Magellan, owned by Toronto-based Ivernia, in 2007 was barred from shipping lead from its Wiluna mine to the port of Esperance after extensive lead contamination was discovered in the town.
The company ran into trouble again in 2010 when traces of airborne lead were found in containers carrying sealed bags of lead carbonate railed to Fremantle.
Last year Magellan ran into further regulatory problems, and voluntarily ceased operations at the mine.
Environment Minister Bill Marmion said today some of the lead exceedances in 2011 had been attributed to historical lead handling at various sites and not to Magellan's recent operations, while other exceedances were a result of naturally occurring lead levels in the environment.
"Despite the detection of several lead exceedances last year, no lead concentrate was found to have escaped into the environment from the double-lined bags within Magellan's locked shipping containers," Mr Marmion said in a statement.
He said the company would be allowed to ship lead carbonate concentrate through Fremantle for up to five years, subject to rigorous conditions.
The concentrate would be contained in sealed bulk bags inside steel shipping containers.
A company spokeperson said "we will review the conditions and a number of other factors before making a decision to restart, we do not anticipate recommencing any shipments prior to the second quarter of 2013."
"The environmental watchdog, the EPA, has given its tick of approval to our export process as the best way to transport this product securely and safely.
"There has been no evidence that any of our product has escaped from our sealed bags inside containers and no one in the Government or its agencies is suggesting that the community has been put at risk by our sealed bags in containers export process," said the Magellan spokesperson.
"It has been clearly demonstrated that our product has stayed sealed, secure and safe; the community can have confidence in our operations and export process."
The company must continue to undertake comprehensive sampling for lead carbonate concentrate in soil, water and air along the transport route from Wiluna to Fremantle, Mr Marmion said.
"The conditions being placed on this company are extremely rigorous, strengthening the auditing, monitoring and reporting requirements," Mr Marmion said.
The onus was on Magellan to demonstrate that they could meet the stringent conditions and rebuild community confidence and trust, he said.