Background

Iluka commenced mining the Douglas mineral sands deposits, located near Horsham, Victoria, in 2005. Ore from Iluka’s mines in Victoria and South Australia is separated into valuable minerals (zircon, rutile and ilmenite) and by-products (sands, clay and gypsum) at the company’s Hamilton mineral separation plant (MSP).

Since 2006, Iluka has been disposing of the mineral sands by-products from the Hamilton MSP at the Douglas site in accordance with all regulatory requirements.

The approvals under which Iluka currently manages the disposal of by-products at Douglas lapse when the volume of by-products from the processing of material from mines other than Douglas reaches 250,000 cubic metres.

The Victorian Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning has determined that a planning permit is required to continue this activity, with the Horsham Rural City Council to act as the regulatory authority.

On 27 June 2016, the Horsham Rural City Council rejected Iluka’s planning application, despite the fact that State Government regulatory authorities and independent technical experts confirm that Iluka’s activities are undertaken in a responsible manner, with minimal environmental impact and in accordance with all regulatory requirements.

The company subsequently referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which reassessed Iluka’s proposal at a hearing that commenced on 7 November 2016.

Outcome

On 27 January 2017, VCAT approved the continuation of Iluka’s disposal of mineral sands by-products from the Hamilton mineral separation plant to the former Douglas mine site. The decision is available on the VCAT website here

VCAT determined the following:

  • -  “we have considered in detail whether a planning permit should be granted having regard to both planning and environmental issues. We have concluded that there are no planning grounds why the permit should not be granted…We are satisfied it will have no adverse impacts on its neighbours or the environment and will contribute to significant employment opportunities in regional Victoria.
  • -  “A great deal of scientific and technical investigation supports this permit application and the Tribunal heard evidence from various experts, which was subject to extensive cross examination by the council and all other parties. We are satisfied that there is no environmental reason why a permit should not be granted. We examine the various environmental issues and analyse the evidence and submissions made, later in this decision and set out our reasons in detail for reaching this conclusion. We are satisfied that the concerns and apprehensions expressed to us by community members have been appropriately addressed and claims of harmful environmental and community health risks have not been substantiated.” 

Iluka accepts and welcomes the decision which provides regulatory certainty for the continued operation of the Hamilton plant, which employs 90 people directly and contributes to an estimated additional 175 local contractors across 55 local companies in the region.

Iluka notes that VCAT’s findings on health, safety and environmental matters are consistent with the company’s longstanding position and operational track record; as well as separate determinations made by State Government regulatory agencies and independent technical experts.

  • -  The Environmental Protection Authority  stated “neither pollution or environmental hazard has occurred or is likely to occur in the future as a result of current and proposed pit 23 [Douglas] disposal activities.
  • -  The Department of Health and Human Services stated “the radiation doses estimated to be attributable to the operation of pit 23 [Douglas] both during the proposed disposal period and following site rehabilitation are so low as to be of no public health or environmental concern.”

The company looks forward to ongoing engagement with all stakeholders, including the Horsham Rural City Council and State Government, to give effect to VCAT’s decision.

The continuation of what is a safe, regulated and standard industry practice is an appropriate environmental, commercial and technical arrangement. 

Information on the managed disposal of by-products, health and environmental management, and the consultation and engagement process can be found here

Environmental Management

Iluka’s exploration, mining, processing, transportation and rehabilitation activities in the Murray Basin are undertaken in accordance with environmental management requirements. Detailed environmental management plans are developed and approved by regulatory authorities, often in conjunction with other stakeholders. Further information on Iluka’s environmental management framework can be found here.

Iluka’s past and present work at Douglas has been approved and regulated by various State Government departments and conducted in accordance with the conditions of relevant approvals.

  • In Victoria the management of radioactive materials, including naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), is regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The DHHS stated in its assessment of Iluka’s activities that “the radiation doses estimated to be attributable to the operation of pit 23 [Douglas] both during the proposed disposal period and following site rehabilitation are so low as to be of no public health or environmental concern.”
  •  On 6 May 2016, the Environmental Protection ​Authority (EPA) issued a public statement regarding the total environmental impact Iluka’s operations at Douglas. The EPA stated “neither pollution or environmental hazard has occurred or is likely to occur in the future as a result of current and proposed pit 23 [Douglas] disposal activities.”
  •  Further information on these assessments can be found here.

    Rehabilitation

    Iluka and its predecessor companies have over 60 years’ industry experience in native vegetation and agricultural rehabilitation. The company has an established record of environmental management and the successful rehabilitation of land disturbed by mining. Further information including case studies can be found here.

    Progressive rehabilitation of disturbed land has been underway at Douglas since 2006, with approximately 470 hectares (comprising approximately 52 per cent of the disturbed land) successfully completed. At Echo, a satellite deposit of Douglas, a further 169 hectares (representing 100 per cent of the disturbed land) has been successfully rehabilitated. In the past five years Iluka has successfully rehabilitated over 2,500 hectares of land.

    Rehabilitation is performed by local employees and contractors, and includes landform reconstruction, topsoil return, seeding of pastures and infrastructure replacement, such as fences. Further information on the mineral sands process and stages of rehabilitation can be found here.

    Several crops have been successfully grown at Echo and Douglas since 2007, including rye corn, sorghum, fescue, trikkala, rye, millet, phalaris, clover, ryegrass, balansa and oats. These crops have grown in various rotations.

    In terms of nutrients (primarily phosphorous and nitrogen), sodicity and pH, soil testing has revealed rehabilitated crop soils at Douglas are generally equal to or better than original surrounding crops. Rehabilitated land is usually slightly lower in organic matter and in order to propagate this organic matter, Iluka green mulches or grazes crops rather than harvest them. The company actively monitors the productivity of these crops.

    Proactivity

    Iluka has committed to environmental management activities beyond the previous mining operational footprint at the Douglas site.

  • In conjunction with the Glenelg Hopkins Management Authority, a project to re-snag the Glenelg River was undertaken to assist in re-establishing plants and reeds, and creating environments for fish and other aquatic creatures.
  • Iluka installed and continues to maintain the Kanagulk automatic weather station, which provided vital flood warnings for Harrow and Casterton during flood events in 2010-11 and 2016.
  • In agreement with the State Government and Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, Iluka’s 5000-megalitre unused water allocation was transferred to Lake Toolondo, to preserve one of Victoria’s premier recreational fishing destinations in January 2015.
  • Further Information

    All enquiries relating to the Douglas site can be directed through the Community Feedback line 1800 20 11 13.

    Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Assessment, including Department of Health and Human Services Assessment

  • Decision on proposed waste by-product disposal at Douglas – determination and summary of the key aspects of the environmental assessment undertaken by the EPA
  • Works approval application assessment report – detailed assessment by the EPA including consideration of water, air, noise and radiation, and demonstrating environmental best practice
  • Independent desktop review report – independent water management assessment by Environmental Earth Sciences
  • Iluka Douglas mine site archive – licences and approvals – all submissions, assessments and studies of the environmental aspects of Iluka’s activities at the Douglas disposal site
  • Murray Basin Radiation Management Plan and Radioactive Waste Management Plan

    Iluka conducts its Murray Basin operations under approved Radiation Management and Radioactive Waste Management plans. A summary of these plans can be found here

    Independent environmental studies

  • Groundwater impact assessment by Jacobs Group Australia
  • Detailed report on the development, calibration and use of a hydrogeological model of the Douglas Mine site by CDM Smith Australia Pty Ltd
  • Report by CDM Smith Australia Pty Ltd on the use of the hydrogeological model to investigate the possibility of past disposal of by-products at the Douglas Mine Site being the source of observed spikes in radium isotope activity concentration
  • Assessment of the potential radiological impacts of the proposed future disposal of by-products to pit 23 at the Douglas Mine Site by Southern Radiation Services Pty Ltd.
  • Radiation Fact Sheet

  • Mineral Sands and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) Fact Sheet
  • Iluka Environmental Management Framework

  • Iluka Environmental Management Framework
  • The Mineral Sands Process

    Explore the Iluka virtual mine site tour for an overview of the main stages of the mineral sands geology, mining, concentrating and processing, as well as ilmenite upgrading to synthetic rutile.

    Applications - part of everyday life

    From everyday application in the home and workplace, to medical, lifestyle and industrial applications, the unique properties of titanium dioxide and zircon are utilised in a vast and increasing array of products and applications.

    For example, zircon is a key component in the production of:

  • ceramic floor and wall tiles;
  • sanitary ware (bathroom facilities);
  • zirconium chemicals (auto catalysts, optic fibre cables, and environmental measurement devices); and
  • zirconia metal (heat exchangers and super alloys).
  • Titanium dioxide (rutile, synthetic rutile, ilmenite) is a key component in the production of:

  • pigment production used in paints, plastics and other forms of coatings;
  • titanium metal (commercial aerospace, defence and sporting equipment); and
  • welding consumables such as electrodes and flux core wire.
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