A proposal to extend the life of a rare earths mine south-east of Laverton has been recommended for environmental approval by the independent Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The proposed expansion by a subsidiary of Lynas Rare Earths Ltd would increase the existing development envelope to 2802ha, extending the life of the 16-year-old operation by up to 30 years.
EPA Chair Professor Matthew Tonts said that at the beginning of the referral process the proponent was encouraged to develop a long-term mining plan that defined the maximum extent of potential impacts.
Professor Tonts said that an upfront assessment of the impacts associated with the foreseeable life of a proposal produced a much better outcome for the environment.
“Adopting this approach meant the EPA was able to undertake the assessment with full knowledge of the existing and proposed Mt Weld operations,” he said. “This is one of the first projects to provide the EPA with life-of-mine insight that allows confident assessment of the combined and cumulative impacts.”
The EPA has recommended that the Mt Weld Rare Earths Project – Life of Mine Proposal may be implemented subject to conditions relating to native fauna habitat, rehabilitation and mine closure, and human health. The proposed expansion includes a hybrid power station, accommodation village, extended waste rock and by-product landforms, and additional borefield and tailings water recycling infrastructure.
This EPA report also notes that since the commencement of operations at Mt Weld in 2007, Lynas has undertaken significant research and design work on its tailings storage. The research led to the use of a technique that has resulted in a 70 per cent improvement in water recovery, a 50 per cent reduction in the volume of tailings requiring storage, and an increase in the strength of the storage material.
The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a three-week public appeal period, closing 30 November 2023. Appeals should be directed to the Office of the Appeals Convenor. The Minister for Environment will make the final decision on the proposal. EPA Report 1752 can be found on the EPA website.
EPA Media Contact: Jenni Storey on 0434 734 997