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.
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