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Response to the Mining Warden's recommendations regarding Iluka Resources' operations at the Douglas mine site

Overview

On 1 March 2016, the Hon. Lily D'Ambrosio MP, Minister for Energy and Resources received the Mining Warden's review of concerns raised by the Kanagulk Landcare Group (KLG) into Iluka Resources' practices at the Douglas mine site near Hamilton.

The Mining Warden considered that a formal investigation was not warranted, but recommended several follow-up actions regarding rehabilitation, environmental protection and compliance.

On 29 April 2016, The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) provided a formal response to the Warden's recommendations and outlined a number of further actions that DEDJTR would undertake in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

As a key action, DEDJTR conducted an audit of tailings disposal and rehabilitation at the Douglas mine site, to ensure that the total volume of disposal is compliant with that authorised under Iluka Resources' work plan.

The audit report found Iluka Resources to be compliant with the established audit criteria. In particular, the evidence supported the finding that Iluka Resources had not exceeded the disposal limits specified in the 2009 work plan variation.

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Ongoing consultation on the compliance audit report will be undertaken to ensure the concerns of the community have been addressed. As such, the scope of this report may be expanded and a subsequent report re-issued before 30 June 2016.

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) Response to recommendations

The Warden's recommendations for further work, and the Government's response to implementing those recommendations, are discussed below.

Mining Warden Recommendation i: An inquiry of the kind requested by Kanagulk not be undertaken

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation i: Accepted.

Mining Warden Recommendation ii: DEDJTR should provide the Minister for Resources and Energy with a report on the allegation that an area of Pit 19 was not rehabilitated to its pre-mining condition.

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation ii: Accepted.

As a next step, Earth Resources Regulation (ERR) will complete a further audit of rehabilitation activities at the Douglas mine site, to ensure that the total volume of disposal is compliant with that authorised under Iluka Resources' work plan. This audit of total disposal volumes will include disposal at pits 19 and 23. The outcomes of the audit will be made publicly available in May 2016.

ERR previously conducted an investigation and produced a report into the rehabilitation of Pit 19 in 2014. The report found that the rehabilitation work and final land form was compliant with regulations and aligned with their work plan and rehabilitation plan for the site.

ERR will keep KLG and Iluka Resources updated on the progress of the audit. Following its completion, ERR will engage with interested parties to ensure the scope of the audit was in line with their expectations, and to determine whether any additional work is required.

Recommendation iii: A copy of the abovementioned report should be made available to Kanagulk, subject to any appropriate deletions that are needed in the public interest.

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation iii: Accepted

ERR will make the outcomes of the audit into disposal at the Douglas site available to KLG and the public by 30 June 2016.

Recommendation iv: DEDJTR should facilitate any rectification works needed in relation to any elevated area of Pit 19.

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation iv: Accepted

If the abovementioned audit determines any non-compliance, ERR will facilitate any required rectification works. Consideration will be given to balancing any rectification work with the disturbance that would be caused to previously completed and successful rehabilitation of the area.

Recommendation v: DEDJTR should seek a report for the Minister for Energy and Resources from both the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the Pit 19 contamination allegation so that consideration can be given to whether any further action of a governmental nature is warranted.

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation v: Accepted.

On 14 April 2016, DEDJTR clarified with the Mining Warden that the contamination allegation in this recommendation refers to radioactive contamination at Pit 19 resulting from the potential overfill of the pit.

DEDJTR has written to DHHS and EPA requesting that they prepare reports on the Pit 19 contamination allegation. These reports will be completed and made public by 30 June 2016.

The findings of the ERR audit report and any decision around rectification works at Pit 19 will be provided to DHHS and EPA for due diligence.

The findings of the EPA and DHHS reports into the radioactive contamination allegation will be considered by ERR in determining whether further action by the Government is relation to Pit 19 is warranted.

Recommendation vi: The appropriate agency should appoint a suitable independent compliance officer whose job it will be to, among other things, monitor compliance with and attend to any enforcement action in respect of conditions attached to any planning permit and/or work authority issued to Iluka for dumping at Pit 23.

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation vi: Accepted.

On 14 April 2016, DEDJTR clarified with the Mining Warden that 'independent compliance officer' was to be independent of the operator (Iluka Resources), not independent of government regulatory agencies. Compliance monitoring and enforcement is already conducted in a manner independent to the mine operator.

DEDJTR will lead the establishment of a 'committee of regulators' that will include representatives from DEDJTR, EPA, DHHS, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Horsham Rural City Council (HRCC).

The committee of regulators would facilitate additional transparency for the community and accountability in monitoring and enforcement.

The long-term membership of the committee will depend on the decision by EPA around granting of a Works Approval and HRCC on granting of a planning permit. If ongoing disposal operations at Douglas are authorised under a works approval and planning permit, ERR would not retain any regulatory responsibility for Pit 23. In this case ERR would retain an advisory position on the committee during a determined transition period.

A decision on the EPA Works Approval is due on 5 May 2016 and the HRCC is expected to make a decision regarding the planning permit in June 2016.

Recommendation vii: DEDJTR should provide the Minister for Energy and Resources with a report as to whether there was extra dumping in Pit 23 beyond the level approved in the Work Plan as varied and, if so, why?

DEDJTR Response to Recommendation vii: Accepted.

The previously mentioned audit of Iluka Resources' operations at the Douglas site will focus on an audit of total disposal volumes against those authorised in Iluka Resources' work plan. This assessment by the ERR of total disposal volumes at Douglas will include any disposal in Pit 23.

The audit report will be made publicly available by 30 June 2016.