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Sediment discharge from Dargues Reef Gold Mine at Majors Creek

Alex Rea 20 September 2019

Construction of a diversion drain from the spill location to the Sediment Basin at the toe of the Tailings Storage Facility embankment to prevent any further discharge. Photo: Supplied

Diversified Minerals, operators of the Dargues Reef Gold Mine at Majors Creek, 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 this week.

The spill came after just 30.6mm of rainfall was recorded on September 17.

The notification said, “Overall the Site is holding up very well, however, there has been a small discharge of sediment laden water through an earth containment bund which has resulted in sediment discharge to Spring Creek and into Majors Creek.”

It’s not the first time there has been a discharge from the mine site. In 2014, the then operator, Big Island Mining, was ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in penalties and costs from a pollution spill during the construction of the mine.

Inadequate sediment and erosion controls caused flows into Majors Creek which flows into Araluen Creek, a tributary of the Deua River. The Deua River catchment provides 60% of  the Eurobodalla’s water supply.

The earth containment bund was channelling sediment laden water to the Sediment Basin located downstream of the Tailings Storage Facility bulk earthworks. Photo: Supplied

On the front foot with the information, the company said on Tuesday (September 17) “Immediate action has been taken to contain the discharge and determine the extent of any impacts on the environment.”

The company says the action included:

  • Construction of a diversion drain from the spill location to the Sediment Basin at the toe of the Tailings Storage Facility embankment to prevent any further discharge;
  • Sediment and erosion control inspections of the entire site;
  • Water sampling at all surface water locations, consistent with the Water Management Plan;
  • The stand down of all surface bulk earthworks activities.

The EPA and other regulatory agencies have been notified.

The company 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.”

Majors Creek as seen from the mine site. Photo: Alex Rea

An EPA spokesperson told Region Media, “The EPA inspected the Dargues Gold Mine on Tuesday morning after the Company had reported that a discharge had occurred from the site following rain.”

“The Company had taken actions to stop the discharge by Tuesday afternoon.”

The EPA inspected the site again on Wednesday to investigate the circumstances of the discharge. This included collecting water samples from within the mine site and Majors Creek.

“The EPA has required the company to immediately put in place works to prevent a reoccurrence of the discharge,” said the spokesperson.

“Once the results of the EPA’s investigations are complete, a decision on any further action necessary will be determined.”

Diversified Minerals says sampling results will be provided once received.

Majors Creek resident Bill Waterhouse says people need to do their job.

“My concern is the same as my concern the last time. The mine is relying on sub-contractors to do their jobs properly.

“The last big spill, for which the (then) company was fined a large sum of money, was from inadequate bunding from when the entrance road was being constructed by a sub-contracting company.

“Last time it was a huge downpour. This time it was only about 50 mm.”

Much of that precipitation fell as snow, and would have been slower to move.

Snow on the Majors Creek Road on Tuesday morning. Photo: Alex Rea

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