Tailings dams to be defined as contaminated sites!

September 23, 2003 - Greens WA spokesperson on mining issues, Robin Chapple MLC has welcomed the decision by the State Government to include Tailings dams as defined contaminated sites under the Contaminated Sites Bill 2002.

Tailings are fine-grained waste materials produced in the mining and mineral processing industries.

These tails are created in many industries, Nickel, Coal, Copper, Iron Ore processing and Gold.

They are produced as aqueous slurry with very low solids content. After thickening, they are conventionally pumped to a tailings impoundment or dam.

On the 18th of September Mr Chapple sought clarification of whether Tailings dams were to be included in the proposed Contaminated Sites Legislation.

'Although all the Tailings dam licences state that there shall be no release of contaminated material from below, around or into the environment from those systems, West Australian tailings dams are designed to leak as a way of assisting consolidation.' said Mr Chapple.

Contamination from these dams, numbering over three hundred in WA, has always been a major environmental concern.

Tailings dams are likely to be classified 'contaminated restricted use', and the restriction will be that the contaminated material should not be disturbed.

Minister Tom Stephens responded to questions by Mr Chapple by saying, 'The definition of 'contaminated' in clause 4 refers to a substance present at the above background concentrations. This would certainly apply to tailings dams.'

'We are still trying to find out if the contaminated plumes emanating from tails dams will be included in the definition of such contaminated sites and how such expansion of the sites will be dealt with over time', said Mr Chapple.

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