Kalbar Conversations Column

EES Peer Review

   Wednesday 17th June, 2020

For the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) deemed that a peer review was required for key technical studies as part of the Environment Effects Statement (EES). These technical studies included Air Quality, Rehabilitation, and Water.

In the EES context, a peer review typically verifies that work is technically sound, conclusions are supported, and clearly covers the relevant matters identified in scoping requirements and Ministerial Guidelines. Peer review is generally applied to those studies of complex or uncertain processes, or those that may give rise to contentious conclusions.

DELWP appointed peer reviewers for the Fingerboards Project in consultation with the Technical Reference Group (TRG) to provide expert advice to the Department, Kalbar as project proponent, and the TRG.

As an independent expert, a peer reviewer is not expected to be more expert that a study’s author, and there is no expectation that the author will take direction from a peer review. There may be residual areas of disagreement, particularly in areas that are non-quantifiable or emerging, but this is not a negative outcome – rather, it reflects the robust and scientific debate that is common within environmental assessments that are more uncertain or complex.

Peer review reports are made publicly available as part of the EES public exhibition. These reports are published as an appendix to the relevant technical study with a view to providing evidence of transparency and identifying any issues that may not have been resolved.

Kalbar has been provided with recommendations from the peer review process and the recommendations have been incorporated into additional investigations and final review of the studies. Kalbar and the relevant specialists have also responded in writing to the comments made by the independent reviewers.

For the air quality and greenhouse gas emissions study, recommendations led to incorporation of recent legislative changes, inclusion of best practice monitoring and management from other Victorian mineral sands operations, clarification of dust modelling results, and testing water quality in water tanks and nearby residences.

Revision of surface water and groundwater studies based on peer review included further design work on on-site water storage, inclusion of key water management features and activities at major milestones throughout the project life, and further assessment of potential impacts on groundwater aquifers using updated groundwater modelling.

Rehabilitation revisions included simplification of objectives, goals and principles for mine rehabilitation, additional work relating to document geotechnical risks associated with mine rehabilitation, and review and update of key concerns raised by community members.

Kalbar Limited

Victor Hugo - EES Technical Consultant