The journey to develop the Fingerboards Project
What attracted me to the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project was that I have rarely seen such a good undeveloped project in my 30-year career in the mineral sands industry.
The Fingerboards Project has world class scale. The mineral grades have a unique mix of valuable minerals which combine to produce a highly economic mineral resource. However, finding a valuable deposit is only the first part of developing a world class mine.
Detailed exploration activities are initially undertaken to measure the amount of minerals found in the deposit. Beyond the drilling and sampling activities that are a key part of the exploration process, Kalbar has also undertaken extensive technical, environmental, and socio-economic studies to determine the best development pathway for the deposit.
The technical work has included detailed process and engineering design work and cost estimation to determine how best to economically develop the mining operation. Also considered in the technical assessments are any environmental impacts. Environmental impacts need to be minimised and the benefit to East Gippsland needs to be maximised. A good example of this is the inclusion of a private haul road and a dedicated rail siding associated with product logistics.
Comprehensive environmental studies have also been conducted as part of a thorough and exhaustive Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process. The environmental studies incorporate more than 20 detailed technical studies (such as water, air quality and noise and vibration studies). Regulators (the State government) have then undertaken extensive reviews of each of these technical studies.
In tandem with these other studies, the socio-economic and consultation process has been ongoing. Some of you who are reading this column may have attended one or more of the numerous public meetings and community and government information sessions that have taken place over the past four years. Kalbar has sought feedback to understand key stakeholder and community concerns. This feedback has informed the project design which has changed to address the concerns raised.
Having done all of this, we are now at a stage where we see the project as being ready to implement – pending regulatory approvals of course. It has been a long and complex journey and a huge amount of hard work, but I am now looking forward to seeing the Fingerboards project being approved and developed for the benefit of all stakeholders.