Frequently asked questions
These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the potential Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project. If you have a question that is not answered here, submit it using the form below. You do not have to give us your contact details, but if you do we will let you know when the answer to your question is published.
ABOUT THE MINE
What is Kalbar doing?
How big is the orebody?
Is the mine economically viable?
Laboratory tests have shown that the ore is low in clay, which reduces water consumption, and makes slurrying and processing easier. Zircon recovery is around 93%, in line with industry standards and tests undertaken by Kalbar and by potential customers shows the zircon is high quality, and ceramic grade, meaning it is readily marketable.
When will mining start?
How long will the mine be in production?
But the deposit is very large. Won't the mine go for longer?
How big will the mine be?
It is currently anticipated that the mine will be divided into approximately 50 hectare planning blocks. At any one time there may be five in operation, but three of these will be undergoing backfill, rehabilitation and revegetation, with the sequence being:
- Topsoil and overburden stripping
- Ore mining
How long does one area get mined for?
What is the depth of the mine?
What licences does Kalbar have for the project?
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.
Area 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).
Subject to a mineral resource being identified, it is expected that the holder of an exploration licence will work towards preparation of a mineralisation report and ultimately establishing the mineral resource to at least an inferred standard within the meaning of the Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves (JORC Code 2012).
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:
For maps of Kalbar’s current licences, see:
Does Kalbar intend to mine all the area within its current exploration licences?
The prime horticultural land on the Mitchell River flats has been excluded from minerals exploration and mining.
ECONOMIC BENEFITS AND IMPACTS
What economic benefits will the mine bring?
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 earthmoving, engineering, processing plant operators, haulage.
We anticipate that most of these jobs will be sourced locally.
The Minerals Council Australia estimates that for every dollar spent in mining another six dollars are spent in the local community.
Depending on the final plans for the mine operations, we anticipate that there will be further benefits to the regional economy from upgrades to port facilities, rail and road networks, water and power infrastructure.
What adverse economic impacts will arise?
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.
An assessment of economic impacts is being undertaken as part of the Environment Effects Statement.
What about the impact on horticulture in the region?
If the potential impacts cannot be adequately avoided, mitigated or managed, the project is unlikely to obtain the necessary environmental approvals.
Will the mine affect property prices?
ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS STATEMENT
How will environmental impacts be assessed?
The EES is being overseen by the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning, who have established 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.
Who is on the technical reference group?
- 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 CMAs
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Aboriginal Victoria
- Heritage Victoria
- Parks Victoria
- East Gippsland Water
- Southern Rural Water
What if the technical reference group doesn't have the expertise required to properly assess the impacts?
Is anyone on the technical reference group representing the community?
How does the community have a say in the Environmental Effects Statement?
The final Environment Effects Statement report is also publicly released for comment.
There are further opportunities for community involvement prior to the Minister considering approval for the Environment Effects Statement.
What assistance is available for the community to be involved?
- Community Education Grant: the government has 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 will 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.
How will water be obtained for the mine?
Water use for the mine will not compete with water required for summer irrigation of horticulture in the Lindenow Valley.
The Environment Effects Statement will provide further detail on water supply options once they are fully investigated and will describe a preferred option.
What will be the visual impact?
The main processing plant will be located to ensure minimal visual impact from nearby roads and properties.
How will the mine be rehabilitated?
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), but this also needs evidence and justification for why the original state can’t be achieved.
If approval for the mine is granted, a rehabilitation bond will be required to cover the cost of rehabilitation.
If the company runs out of money or stops work, do they have to rehabilitate the mine or can they walk away?
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 rehabilitation bond is not returned until the site is rehabilitated.
What will be left behind?
Rehabilitation includes the restoration of appropriate landforms and re-vegetation of the mined areas.
What will be the impact on traffic and local roads?
There are several road transport route options assessed in the EES.
Two rail transport options have also been assessed – a purpose built siding near Fernbank and the Fennings rail siding in Bairnsdale.
Kalbar will be required to upgrade local roads and intersections to accommodate heavy vehicles and meet the requirements of East Gippsland Shire and VicRoads.
What chemicals will be used? Will explosives be used?
What about radioactive materials and dust?
The mineral sands plant will use the same gravity properties of the minerals to concentrate the heavy mineral for export. This also results in a concentration of the NORMs in the final export product. However, this level doesn’t require any special placarding and can be transported like any other bulk product. However, because of the presence of NORMs Kalbar will develop a radiation management plan to ensure health and safety. For instance, finished product stockpiles will need to be managed to avoid release of dust to the atmosphere and any risks to workers. This may mean enclosure of some stockpiles, or other methods as required.
What types of monitors are being used and where are they located?
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.
What water quality monitoring is being undertaken?
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.
Due to the ephemeral nature of the drainage gullies across the project area, surface water samples are collected in the gullies where water is present, typically from dams or isolated natural pools within the creek beds.
In addition, long-term stream water level, discharge volume and water quality monitoring data is recorded and periodically downloaded from DELWP’s Water Measurement Information System.
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.
Long term level and quality data from the state observation bore network (SOBN) has also been obtained for the wider project area and will form part of the baseline hydrogeological dataset.
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.
What testing is being done for dust, heavy metals and other airborne pollutants?
The air quality monitoring plan addresses the requirements of:
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Air Quality Management) (Victorian Government, 2001);
- Protocol for Environmental Management – Mining and Extractive Industries (EPA Victoria, 2007);
- Guidelines for Environmental Management – A Guide to the Sampling and Analysis of Air Emissions and Air Quality (EPA Victoria, 2002); and
- Additional requirements stipulated by EPA Victoria and provided in writing by DELWP.
To assure that high-quality, rigorous and robust background ambient air quality data is collected, the applicable quality assurance standards include:
- All sampling, gravimetric analysis and chemical analysis are carried out by independent laboratories that are NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) accredited and all results are documented in a NATA endorsed report;
- All instrumentation installation, servicing and operation is in accordance with the relevant Australian Standards;
- All quality assurance documentation required for NATA endorsement and Australian Standard compliance is maintained and provided to EPA on request;
- Both daily 24-hour PM10 and PM2.5 sample collection, as well as continuous, hourly PM10 and PM2.5 monitoring, is conducted to obtain daily average and short-time-period transient data;
- Results, with NATA endorsement, are reported to EPA on a monthly basis;
- All samples are documented and securely stored by the NATA laboratory so that they are available for further chemical analysis if required; and
- a written log book is maintained at the monitoring site for recording events such as instrument problems, potentially dusty activities, etc.
Are heavy metals present in the soil?
The term heavy metal refers to any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations. Examples of heavy metals include mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), thallium (Tl), and lead (Pb).
Heavy metals are natural components of the Earth’s crust. They cannot be degraded or destroyed. To a small extent they enter our bodies via food, drinking water and air. As trace elements, some heavy metals (e.g. copper, selenium, zinc) are essential to maintain the metabolism of the human body. However, at higher concentrations they can lead to poisoning. Heavy metal poisoning could result, for instance, from drinking-water contamination (e.g. lead pipes), high ambient air concentrations near emission sources, or intake via the food chain.
The Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project is targeting zircon and titanium minerals and rare earths. These are not classified as Heavy Metals.
Kalbar has conducted assays of the ore body, and there is next to no heavy metal content in it, as is typical for mineral sands mines. As expected, the levels of Heavy Metals are very low throughout the overburden and ore. All naturally occurring heavy metals found are well within the accepted safe standards.
Below are examples of the heavy metals detected and the concentrations found, compared to the ‘Health Investigation Level’ (HIL A) for residential soils (that is, the level at which further investigation would be required to assess potential health impacts).