FOLLOWING nine months of suspension, lead exports will resume from the Port of Geraldton in WA, with a trial shipping program in place. Transport minister Troy Buswell announced in early October that he
had lifted the suspension of high precious metal (HPM) exports, as a result of health testing and additional measures to improve operation, infrastructure and monitoring. Shipments of HPM, which contains up to 40 per cent lead sulphide, were shut down in December 2010 when the levels of lead allowed by the port’s licence conditions were exceeded during one of Minerals and Metals Group’s (MMG) shipments from the Golden Grove mine.
Following the discovery, MMG reported that it had immediately deferred shipments from the port and began working closely with the Port Authority, the Department of Environment and Conservation, the
Department of Health, the Department of Transport and independent consultants to gain a better understanding of the dust emissions caused by metal concentrate loading. As part of the process, MMG commissioned Toxikos founding director and principal consultant adjunct associate professor Dr Roger Drew to undertake an independent investigation into the risks of lead and the suitability of the Port of Geraldton’s existing lead licence limit.
“Following consideration of Professor Drew’s report, which was finalised in May 2011, the Department of Environment and Conservation, in consultation with the Department of Health, amended the Geraldton Port’s Environmental Licence on September 8, 2011 to a more realistic, yet safe, standard,” Mr Buswell said. The Port of Geraldton’s lead licence threshold was amended from a 0.5 micrograms per cubic metre limit for a 24-hour period to a 0.5mcg/cum limit on a three-month rolling average. In addition, two 24-hour lead targets were included in the licence. A target of 2mcg/ cum will apply to the Berth 6 (seaward)
In addition, a number of measures to improve dust control at the port have been implemented, including: tightening of wind restrictions; the introduction of loading limits; the acquisition of new compliance equipment; and improved dust monitoring. Conditions of the trial shipment include strict adherence with the Port of Geraldton’s amended loading procedures and 24/7 supervision of all HPM loading operations by an experienced MMG representative. Should the first trial have an acceptable outcome, a second trial shipment would be undertaken. Positive results from both trials, and an ongoing commitment to monitoring and adherence to port conditions, could result in the resumption of bulk loading of HPM at the Port of Geraldton. In further positive news for MMG, the company has announced its intention to give the Avebury nickel mine a new lease of life. The Tasmanian mine was put on care and maintenance in December 2008, following a major fall in nickel prices. MMG chief geologist Dr Steve Beresford told delegates at the 2011 Paydirt Australian Nickel Conference that the company would return to grassroots drilling and technical strategies to reinvigorate the mine. Dr Beresford said that Avebury had a current
resource of 22 million tonnes at 0.97 per cent nickel, with “extensions that will deliver additional resource upside”.
By Rachel Seeley