EPA recommends approval for silver, lead and zinc mine for East Kimberley

Release date: 
21 October 2013

A new silver, lead and zinc mine has been recommended for approval by the Environmental Protection Authority.

The Sorby Hills Silver Lead Zinc mine and processing facility, 50km north of Kununurra, includes the construction of infrastructure such as an access road, evaporation ponds, evaporation basin, workshops, laboratory, bioremediation facility, perimeter fence and offices.

The proposal by Sorby Management Pty Ltd will also include the discharge of waste to a tailings storage facility and road train transport of the concentrate produced to Wyndham Port for export.

EPA Chairman Paul Vogel said several environmental factors were examined during the assessment of the proposal, including potential impacts to vegetation and flora, marine environmental quality, human health and the ability to rehabilitate the area following the mine’s closure.

Dr Vogel said while examining the proposal at the highest level of a Public Environmental Review, the EPA was concerned with the initial inclusion of an artificial wetland, in particular the capability of determining whether the water entering the wetland was of suitable quality.

“The EPA had a strong preference for the proponent to replace the artificial wetland with an evaporation basin and we are pleased the proponent took the EPA’s concerns on board and modified the proposal,” he said.

Dr Vogel said the proposal footprint was also reduced from 767.25 hectares to 573 hectares during the assessment process.

He said the proposal was able to meet the EPA’s environmental objectives if the recommended conditions regarding the monitoring of groundwater dependent vegetation and handling, storage and transport of concentrate were implemented, including establishing a Wyndham Port Heavy Metals Survey and a Heavy Metals Monitoring Plan.

Dr Vogel said that transport of the concentrate to Wyndham Port would be managed under the Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004 and that strict conditions would ensure no lead, zinc, or silver was discharged during loading at the port.

He said that as a precaution, a survey and monitoring plan, which must be in accordance with Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) Guidelines for sediment sampling at the port, would establish the current levels of lead, silver and zinc present in the sediment at monitoring sites and be able to detect any elevated heavy metals in the sediment during the loading process.

The survey results will need to be submitted to the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority prior to the commencement of concentrate production.

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing 4 November, 2013. Appeals can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au

The Minister for Environment will make the final decision.

EPA Report 1491 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au

Media Contacts: Nadia Miraudo, Fiona Adolph 0400 866 450