These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project.
If you have a question that isn’t answered here, we encourage you to submit it using this form.
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ABOUT THE MINE
Kalbar is investigating building a mineral sands mine at the Fingerboards, near Glenaladale, about 20km west of Bairnsdale. Kalbar has undertaken exploration and testing of ore samples.
A Pre-Feasibility Study and a Bankable Feasibility Study have been completed and an Environment Effects Statement is being prepared in accordance with State Government legislation.
The mineral resource estimate of the Fingerboards Project contains 1.19 billion tonnes of ore at 0.5% zircon, 1% titanium minerals and 0.1% rare earths.
Kalbar plans to mine from areas of enriched grades, occurring close to the surface within the Fingerboards resource area.
Kalbar plans to produce over 8 million tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) from 170 million tonnes of ore over a 15-20 year period, making it one of the biggest producing mineral sands mines in the world. Only the higher grade and more accessible parts of the ore body will be mined.
Yes. Pre-feasibility studies based on testing of the ore and global market analysis have independently verified that the project is economically sound.
An Economic Impact Assessment has also been carried out to identify local, regional and State level economic impacts.
A Bankable Feasibility Study has been completed to provide the economic information required to finance the project.
We anticipate that project approvals will occur from late mid-2020.
Subject to approvals, Kalbar proposes to begin construction in late 2020, with mining operations to start about 12 months later.
Approximately 15 to 20 years.
The project that Kalbar is looking to develop is focused on a small part of the total resource because this is currently the most economic project.
If those circumstances change, any proposal to extend mining beyond the planned Fingerboards Project years will require new approvals.
A mineral sands mine is different to most other types of mining. Although the size of the deposit is large, only a small area is excavated at a time, with previously mined areas undergoing back-filling, topsoil replacement and revegetation.
The sequence of mining is:
Topsoil and overburden stripping
At any one time, the total area being mined is approximately 120 hectares.
At any one time, the total area disturbed due to mining, including mining infrastructure and tailings storage, is approximately 360 hectares.
It takes about one to two years to mine an area, and then a similar timeframe to complete rehabilitation and prepare the land for revegetation.
The mine pit will have an average depth of 29 metres and a maximum depth of 45 metres.
Kalbar has Exploration and Retention Licences over areas of land as granted by the Victorian Government.
An Exploration Licence or Retention Licence does not define the area proposed to be mined. It covers a wider area for exploration, which reduces in size over time to define the area proposed under a Mining Licence.
Exploration licences are issued for 5 years and can be renewed for up to 5 years.
Areas of land must be relinquished from the Exploration Licence as time passes:
25% at the end of year 2;
a further 35% at the end of year 4;
a further 20% at the end of year 7 (leaving 20% of the original licence area); and
a further 10% at the end of year 10 (leaving 10% of the original licence area).
Minimum expenditures on exploration by the proponent are required to maintain the licence.
The Retention Licence is an intermediate licence between an exploration licence and a mining licence. It allows activities such as exploration, research and other development activities required to demonstrate the economic viability of mining.
The primary purpose of a Retention Licence is to undertake further evaluation work on a mineral resource. Retention Licences can be granted for up to 10 years. Relinquishment requirements do not apply to Retention Licences.
The granting of an Exploration Licence or Retention Licence does not of itself permit mining work to be undertaken.
For more information about Exploration and Retention Licences, see:
Exploration Licences are taken out over a much wider area than that which is suitable for a final mining licence. This is because mining companies are required to relinquish a specified proportion of their Exploration Licence each year.
Part of one of our exploration licences covering the Mitchell River flats vegetable growing areas has been excluded from mineral exploration or mining by the State Government.
ECONOMIC BENEFITS AND IMPACTS
It is estimated that the project will create approximately 200 permanent jobs working directly on the project when in operation, with flow-on employment in the local community is likely to be an additional 200 jobs.
In addition, we anticipate that the project will require a construction workforce of up to 200 people.
The capital invesement for the project is in the order of $200 million and annual oparating expenditure will be in the order of $50 million per year.
If the project is approved, we anticipate that in both the construction and operation phases, most of the jobs will be sourced locally in East Gippsland.
The mine will require general services such as administration, cleaning, catering, occupational health & safety and recruitment.
During construction, it will require building services, structural engineers, general trades and labour.
During operation, it will require mining specific services such as earth-moving, engineering, processing plant operators and haulage.
Increased employment in East Gippsland, both direct and indirect, has a positive flow on effect to the local economy.
We anticipate that there will be further benefits to the regional Gippsland economy from upgrades to:
Rail and road networks
The Minerals Council Australia estimates that for every dollar spent in mining another six dollars are spent in the local community.
An assessment of economic impacts has been undertaken as part of the Environment Effects Statement.
The mine will be located on grazing and plantation land. The amount of farmland temporarily lost to the mine is around 400-500 hectares at any one time. The farming jobs potentially lost are those required to run dry land grazing or plantation. The mine is progressively rehabilitated, and when mining is completed, the farmland is returned to its original land use and capacity.
Nearby farms will be able to operate normally while the mining activity occurs. It is therefore anticipated that the temporary loss of productive farmland will displace only a few farming jobs.
There may be impacts in the local employment market, however Kalbar is working with employment and training providers and other employers to minimise any negative impacts and maximise employment opportunities for the region.
What about the impact on horticulture in the region?
There are valid community concerns about the potential impact of the mine on the horticultural activities in the Lindenow Valley.
All potential impacts, including dust, surface water, groundwater and any other potential sources of pollution have been thoroughly investigated as part of the Environment Effects Statement.
Studies conclude that there is very low risk of adverse impact on nearby horticultural activities.
Potential impacts on the image and reputation of the region have also been investigated and, although these are difficult to quantify, mineral sands mines have operated alongside horticultural and agricultural activities in other parts of Australia without affecting the market perception of those areas.
Sometimes the economic and employment boost a mine provides to a region can actually cause property prices to rise.
The effects of mining on property prices has been investigated during the preparation of the EES.
Property values are affected by a variety of factors, and reductions in property values are not anticipated to occur providing that the operation of the mine can be demonstrated to be in accordance with environmental standards.
ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS STATEMENT
An Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is required by the State Government in accordance with legislation.
Scoping Requirements for the EES were set by the Minister for Planning following public input.
Comprehensive technical studies have been undertaken by independent technical experts to assess all potential impacts and identify measures to avoid, minimise and mitigate any potential impacts.
Key technical studies have undergone independent peer review.
The EES has been overseen by the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning, with input and advice from a Technical Reference Group made up of all relevant government agencies and authorities.
The EES will be made available for public comment as part of the statutory consultation process.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Melbourne and Gippsland Offices)
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Environment Protection Authority
East Gippsland Shire Council
Wellington Shire Council
East Gippsland and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authorities
Department of Health and Human Services
East Gippsland Water
Southern Rural Water
Government representatives on the Technical Reference Group have technical expertise on hand within their departments.
The Minister can decide to seek expert technical advice and peer review of the EES documentation.
Is anyone on the technical reference group representing the community?
Agencies on the TRG work all the time with communities, particularly the Councils. There are processes for community consultation in every agency and community interests are high on their priorities.
How does the community have a say in the Environmental Effects Statement?
The community has had the opportunity to comment on the draft Scoping Requirements for the EES and there have been several community sessions and other opportunities for community members to provide feedback and comments on the technical Studies.
The final Environment Effects Statement report will be publicly released for comment for 40 business days.
There are further opportunities for community involvement through public submissions, an independent panel process prior to the Minister considering approval for the Environment Effects Statement.
What assistance is available for the community to be involved?
The Victorian Government supports the Glenaladale community through the Community Education and Community Advisor Grant programs.
Community Education Grant: the government appointed Environmental Justice Australia to deliver community education workshops and online resources to the Glenaladale community under the Community Education Grant program.
Community Advisor Grant: the government intends to provide grants to eligible not-for-profit community organisations that seek to represent the local community during public hearings in relation to the Fingerboards proposal.
The project is anticipated to require an estimated 3 gigalitres of water per annum. Water is proposed to be obtained from a combination of winter flow in the Mitchell River and groundwater from the Latrobe aquifer.
Water from the Mitchell River will not be taken during summer.
The final decision on water allocation will by made by Southern Rural Water.
During the mining process, the disturbance to the landscape setting will be similar to that caused by broad scale soil cultivation. Measures to reduce visual impact will include visual bunding and perimeter screen planting.
The development of the project will result in only a minimal visual impact on surrounding areas once the mining process is completed.
The main processing plant will be located within an existing plantation, to ensure minimal visual impact from nearby roads and properties.
Approximately 5% of the ore will be removed as heavy mineral concentrate.
All other material will be stockpiled and returned to the mine void as the mine progresses.
Rehabilitation occurs progressively behind the advancing mine. There will be no void once mining has been completed and the area will be rehabilitated and returned to agricultural production and native vegetation.
Rehabilitation plans include a 200 hectare native grassland restoration project, the biggest of its kind in Victoria.
Rehabilitation plans are prepared in consultation with regulators and landowners. There may be some cases where it is not desirable to restore the land to its exact previous condition (e.g. areas of instability).
A rehabilitation bond will be required to cover the cost of rehabilitation.
They can’t just walk away.
If the mine was to go into care and maintenance, requirements would have to be set to continue to manage the site to strictly regulated levels (such as for dust), the work plan would need updating and the site would need to be maintained so there were no adverse impacts.
The Victorian Government will require a rehabilitation bond to cover all costs of rehabilitation at any time during the mine’s operation.
The rehabilitation bond is not returned unless the site is fully rehabilitated.
The rehabilitation process aims to return the land to its pre-mining condition.
Materials can be mixed to provide the best possible soil profile to suit the needs of landowners.
Detailed studies of local geology and soils have been undertaken and the mine plan will provide all details on the rehabilitation process and soil profiles.
Rehabilitation includes the restoration of appropriate landforms and re-vegetation of the mined areas.
Road transport is estimated to require 40 return truckloads (B-doubles) each day to transport heavy mineral concentrate to port facilities at Corner Inlet and rail facilities at Maryvale.
Transport and traffic assessment identifies all relevant road design, capacity and safety issues and measures to minimise traffic impacts.
Proposed upgrading of the Gippsland freight rail line provides the opportunity for rail transport to be used, reducing the need for road transport. The preferred option is to construct a rail siding near the mine site to reduce the need for long distance road haulage.
Kalbar will be required to upgrade local roads and intersections to accommodate heavy vehicles and meet the requirements of East Gippsland Shire and VicRoads.
Mineral sands mining does not require the use of dangerous chemicals or explosives.
The only chemicals used are flocculants to assist the settling of clay in the mine by-products. As the material mined does not contain hard rock, blasting will not be required.
Conventional earthmoving equipment such as excavators, dozers and scrapers can freely dig the overburden and ore.
Modelling of dust emissions indicate that there is a negligible risk of airborne dust affecting surrounding properties or vegetable crops.
The mining process does not involve the crushing of sand particles and will not release harmful levels of respirable silica dust.
Predicted radiation exposure to workers and the public during mining and transportation is within regulated safety standards.
Further detail regarding radiation and dust can be found in the relevant technical reports.
Baseline monitoring is undertaken for noise, dust and airborne matter, groundwater and surface water.
Monitors are established in accordance with the relevant monitoring guidelines provided by the EPA and samples are taken and analysed in accordance with those guidelines.
Monitors are in locations within and outside the project area, as determined by Kalbar’s independent experts, in consultation with the various regulatory authorities.
Baseline monitoring of the surface water environment is based on sampling conducted at six locations spanning the project area and three locations on the Mitchell River.
Surface water sampling locations have been nominated based on:
The presence of water;
Access to private property;
Spatial coverage across different drainage gullies; and
Position upstream and downstream of the project area on the Mitchell River.
Baseline monitoring of groundwater is being conducted at seven groundwater observation wells installed screening the upper water bearing formation (Coongulmerang Formation), and one existing groundwater well screening a deeper water bearing formation.
The following considerations were made when selecting well locations:
Ability to offer spatial coverage across the project area;
Proximity to potentially higher risk mine features (e.g. tailings dams, evaporation ponds etc.);
Locating some wells down-hydraulic gradient between the proposed mine development area and the Mitchell River.
Locating some wells outside of the planned construction areas and mine pit excavations to offer long term monitoring capability.
Air quality monitoring and chemical analysis has been undertaken to detect and measure crystalline silica, heavy metals and radionuclides.
Chemical analysis and quality assurance plans have been developed in accordance with Australian Standards.
Chemical analysis of the topsoil, overburden and ore body at the site demonstrates that levels of radiation and heavy metals are within safe levels, as defined by Australian Standards.
The term heavy metal refers to any metallic chemical element that is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations (e.g. lead and mercury). Heavy metals are natural components of the Earth’s crust. They cannot be degraded or destroyed.
The Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project is targeting zircon, titanium and rare earths - minerals which, because of their high densities, occur together at the Fingerboards ore as natural heavy mineral concentrate (HMC). These are not Heavy Metals.
Kalbar has conducted assays and, as expected, the levels of Heavy Metals are very low throughout the overburden, ore and HMC, as is typical for mineral sands mines.
All naturally occurring heavy metals found are well within the accepted safe standards.
Kalbar is in regular contact with the CFA, who have conducted an inspection of the site containing stockpiled timber.
The CFA representatives are satisfied with the management of the site and have confirmed that the grazing of the land assists to reduce fire risk.
The mine plan for the project will require an emergency management plan prepared in consultation with emergency services agencies.