17 June 2022

'Well overdue' remediation works scheduled for contaminated Captains Flat mine

| Claire Fenwicke
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old surge bin at a mine

The historic Old Surge Bin at Lake George Mine will be partially removed as part of the works. Photo: QPRC.

Long awaited remediation works are set to begin on the historic Lake George Mine site in Captains Flat.

At a recent Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) meeting, councillors approved the NSW Legacy Mine Program‘s (LMP) request to access council-owned land to address lead contamination. This will include the partial removal of the heritage-listed Old Surge Bin.

Councillor John Preston said the work was “well overdue”.

“The situation at Captains Flat has been pretty toxic for a long time,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the remediation completed.”

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According to council documents, the bin has been assessed as “unsalvageable” and the LMP would coordinate the removal alongside the current Captains Flat Taskforce under the Department of Regional NSW.

A spokesperson said a geotechnical investigation needed to be carried out before finalising the remedial process for the old surge bin.

“Remediation works at the [mine] are scheduled to commence soon. This will include site preparation works, stockpiling of materials and the installation of erosion and sediment controls,” they said.

“Heritage features such as the lookout point and mill site structures will be preserved during the works to maintain the site’s mining history and strict monitoring and control measures will be in place to ensure public safety and minimise environmental impacts.”

Photographs of the old bin would be taken for historical archiving and signage would be constructed to recognise and remember the old structure if it is proven safe to do so.

Surge bins were historically used to store ore concentrate prior to off-site transport. It’s expected the contaminated soil inside the bin will be removed using a vac truck and placed in the Northern Dumps encapsulation cell.

The contaminated soil underneath will be treated with lime and a combination of rock mulch and plants put on top.

Old mine site

Rehabilitation works have been carried out at the site since 1972. Photo: Department of Regional NSW.

Meanwhile the abatement plan for private lands was being independently audited, following additional testing of soil, dust and groundwater from public spaces in and around Captains Flat.

“Priorities and appropriate actions to manage lead levels on public land, including Foxlow Parklet, have been identified and funding options pursued,” the Department of Regional NSW spokesperson said.

“The NSW Government will release the Lead Management Plan and air quality monitoring reports once consultation with stakeholders is complete.”

High levels of lead were detected in Captains Flat last year, which led to the relocation of Captains Flat Preschool.

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The Lake George Mine site has been “heavily contaminated” with lead, arsenic, copper, zinc and sulphur due to mining operations that date back to the early 1880s. Remediation works have been ongoing in the area since 1972.

Council identified the aim of current works as to continue remediation of the exposed and partly vegetated contaminated soil in the rail loading and mill areas, and the exposed waste rock and mineralised in situ rock in the central and Elliot’s Mine area.

Captains Flat residents have been advised they can minimise their potential exposure to lead by:

  • Frequently washing hands
  • Regularly washing family pets and toys, including outdoor play equipment
  • Regularly washing or wet-mopping floors, stairs and windowsills to reduce dust
  • Using raised garden beds and covering exposed dirt with turf or mulch to prevent dust being carried by the wind
  • Not allowing children to play in soil or dirt that may be contaminated, for example by digging and building BMX bike jumps and tracks

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