01/08/2022 - 11:22

Watchdog to review Simcoa mine plan

01/08/2022 - 11:22

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The state’s environmental watchdog will scrutinise silicon producer Simcoa’s plans to establish a new mine in the Wheatbelt as reserves at its current deposit dwindle.

Watchdog to review Simcoa mine plan
Simcoa is proposing to transport the product to the Kemerton Industrial Estate in Wellesley, where it has operated a smelter for the past 33 years.

The state’s environmental watchdog will scrutinise silicon producer Simcoa’s plans to establish a new mine in the state’s Wheatbelt as reserves at its current deposit dwindle.

Earlier this year, Simcoa Operations lodged plans with the environmental regulator seeking permission to clear 17.12 hectares of native vegetation to make way for the North Kiaka Project.

The new mine, earmarked for land about 15 kilometres north of Moora, comprises a 25-hectare above groundwater mine pit, associated infrastructure and a haulage road.

Initial assessments indicate the North Kiaka Project could support the production of 2.3 million tonnes of lump quartz, with 130,000 tonnes to be mined annually over a period of 18 years.

Simcoa is proposing to transport the product to the Kemerton Industrial Estate in Wellesley, where it has operated a smelter for the past 33 years.

But the Environmental Protection Authority has decided it should first be subject to an assessment, announcing today the clearing of land and the potential impact of the mine on Aboriginal heritage sites and greenhouse gas emissions warranted review.

In justifying the decision, EPA chair Matthew Tonts said several of the environmental factors required assessment, particularly given the mine was earmarked for an area with high environmental values. 

“Detailed assessment is required to determine the extent of the proposal's direct and indirect impacts, and whether the EPA environmental factor objectives can be met,” he said.

The silicon producer’s future in the region hinges on the project’s approval, with estimates indicating the existing mine has about seven years worth of reserves left.

Simcoa, which is currently the country’s only silicon manufacturing company, hopes to begin construction as early as next year and begin commissioning in 2024.

About 85 per cent of the 52,000t of silicon the company produces each year is exported overseas via Fremantle port.

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