On Tuesday March 10, just a day after the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined Big Island Mining Pty Ltd $15,000 for an alleged discharge of sediment laden water from their gold mine at Majors Creek, mine operator Diversified Minerals announced a further spill.
A statement from the company says that “during a routine inspection”, they “became aware of sediment-laden water originating from a pipeline being used to transfer water from the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) to the underground mine.”
In September 2019 Diversified Minerals was quick to notify the public, the Community Consultative Committee and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) following a discharge of “sediment-laden water” from the mine site. The spill came after 30.6mm of rainfall was recorded on September 17.
Regarding the September 2019 spill, the EPA said last Monday “the discharge contained high concentrations of sediment. Sediment-laden water can smother water plants and other aquatic life and damage the gills of fish.”
EPA Director Regulatory Operations Regional South Nigel Sargent said the EPA treats all water pollution incidents seriously.
“The Dargues Gold Mine is located in an area close to waterways that are used for drinking water. The company needs to operate their site correctly to ensure they do not have offsite impacts” said Mr Sargent.
“Even though it was determined there was minimal harm to the creek, it is timely to remind all construction sites that water management controls must be appropriately designed and regularly checked.”
“Polluted water must remain on the premises so it does not impact our waterways and can be appropriately re-used in mine operations or to suppress dust”, he said.
“The company has implemented environmental management and pollution control measures to reduce the likelihood of similar discharges in the future.’’
Mr Sargent said the $15,000 fine for polluting waters was a reminder of the importance of considering and protecting the surrounding environment.
However, on Tuesday, March 10, Diversified Minerals notified the community via its Facebook page of a further incident.
“This afternoon, during a routine inspection, the Dargues Gold Mine became aware of sediment-laden water originating from a pipeline being used to transfer water from the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) to the underground mine. The cause of the event is under investigation”, the statement said.
“Immediate action has been taken to contain the discharge and determine the extent of any impacts on the environment.”
Actions taken included isolating the pipeline and shutting off the pump. Sediment and erosion control inspections of the discharge site were completed and water sampling was completed to assess the extent of any impact. The EPA and other regulatory agencies were notified.
The notification said “The area from which the discharged water originated contains only disturbed soils. There are no chemicals, hydrocarbons or other pollutants contained within this area.” The spill came after around 100mm of rain was recorded over several days in the area.
Progress at the mine has been ramping up as the brand new processing plant was commissioned earlier in the month, and the mine transitions to 24 hour operations.
The Dargues Reef Gold Mine, at the headwaters of the Deua and Moruya Rivers, had previously been fined in 2014 for failure to install adequate sediment and erosion controls.