FINGERBOARDS PROJECT

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?

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 has been completed and an Environment Effects Statement is being prepared in accordance with State Government legislation.

How big is the orebody?

The mineral resource estimate of the Fingerboards Project contains 1.19Bt of ore at 0.5% zircon, 1% titanium minerals and 0.1% rare earths. Kalbar Resources plans to mine from areas of enriched grades, occurring close to the surface within the Fingerboards resource area. Kalbar plans to produce over 6 Mt of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) from 170 Mt of ore over a 20 year period. This would make 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.

Is the mine economically viable?

Yes. Pre-feasibility studies based on testing of the ore have independently verified that the project is economically sound.

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?

Subject to gaining Government approvals, as well as a range of other factors such as market conditions, Kalbar proposes to begin construction of the Fingerboards Mine in late 2019, with production to begin in 2020.

How long will the mine be in production?

We expect the mine life to be approximately 15 to 20 years.

But the deposit is very large. Won't the mine go for longer?

The project that Kalbar is looking to develop only mines a small part of the total resource because under current market conditions this is the most economic project. If circumstances change, any proposal to extend the life of the mine beyond the planned 20 years will require new approvals.

How big will the mine be?

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 any one time, with previously mined areas undergoing back-filling, topsoil replacement and revegetation.

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
  • Backfill
  • Rehabilitation
  • Revegetation

How long does one area get mined for?

It takes about one to two years to mine an area, and then a similar timeframe to complete rehabilitation.

What is the depth of the mine?

The current plan is for an average depth of 29 metres and a maximum depth of 45 metres.

What licences does Kalbar have for the project?

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.

Kalbar has no intention of mining the prime horticultural area of the Lindenow flats. It will end up dropping this area as part of its relinquishment requirements.

Exploration Licences

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.

Retention Licences

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:

http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources-regulation/information-for-community-and-landholders/mining-and-extractives

http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources-regulation/licensing-and-approvals/minerals/guidelines-and-codes-of-practice

For maps of Kalbar’s current licences, see:

http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources/maps-reports-and-data/mining-licences-near-me

Does Kalbar intend to mine all the area within its current exploration licences?

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 covers the Mitchell River flats, but we won’t be mining areas within the flats and have not explored this area as it doesn’t contain economically viable mineral.

 

ECONOMIC BENEFITS AND IMPACTS

What economic benefits will the mine bring?

It is estimated that the project will create approximately 200 permanent jobs working directly on the project when in operation. Flow-on employment in the community is likely to be an additional 200 jobs. In addition, we expect we will require a construction workforce averaging of up to 200 people.

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?

The mine will be located on grazing and plantation land. The amount of farmland temporarily lost to the mine is around 280 hectares at any one time. The farming jobs lost are those required to run approximately 100 hectares of dry land grazing or plantation. The mine is progressively rehabilitated, and when mining has been 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.

An assessment of economic impacts is being undertaken as part of the Environment Effects Statement.

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 will be thoroughly investigated as part of the Environment Effects Statement.

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?

The effects of mining on property prices will be 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. Sometimes the economic and employment boost a mine provides to a region can cause property prices to rise.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS STATEMENT

How will environmental impacts be assessed?

An Environmental Effects Statement (EES) has been required by the State Government in accordance with legislation. Comprehensive technical studies are being undertaken by independent technical experts to assess all potential impacts.

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
  • VicRoads
  • 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?

Departmental representatives 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 the opportunity to comment on the draft Scoping Requirements for the EES.

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?

The Victorian Government will support the Glenaladale community through the Community Education and Community Advisor Grant programs.

  • 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.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

How will water be obtained for the mine?

The project is anticipated to require an estimated 3-4 gigalitres of water per annum. Water will be obtained either from winter flow in the Mitchell River, groundwater sources or a combination of both.

Water use for the mine will not compete with water required for 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?

Detailed mine plans are not finalised, so we cannot be certain of the visual impact of the proposed project at this stage. However, this is a significant community concern and it will be an important factor in the mine design.

The main processing plant will be located to ensure minimal visual impact from nearby roads and properties.

How will the mine be rehabilitated?

Only 4% 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.

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?

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 are being undertaken and a mine plan will need to provide all details on the rehabilitation process and soil profiles.

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 options for transporting the mineral to market, including trucks, rail or a combination of the two. Road transport is estimated to require 40 truckloads (B-doubles) each day to transport heavy mineral concentrate to the port. Proposed upgrading of the Gippsland freight rail line provides the opportunity for rail transport to be used, reducing the need for road transport.

There are several route options, all of which are currently under investigation. The preferred route will be determined after consultation with VicRoads and the local community.

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?

Mineral sands mining does not require the use of 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.

What about radioactive materials and dust?

The sand formations at the Fingerboards contain trace levels of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs) like monazite. This is naturally concentrated by erosion and run-off and its natural occurrence can be seen in the black sand depositions in the ephemeral streams of the area.

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?

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.

What water quality monitoring is being undertaken?

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.

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?

Air quality monitoring and chemical analysis is 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.

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).

What are the fire risks associated with stockpiled timber on Kalbar's land and what is happening with the wood?

Kalbar is in regular contact with the CFA, who have recently 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 CFA have no additional requirements for management of fire risk on the site. Kalbar will continue to manage the site to minimise fire risk.

Kalbar has allowed access to the wood by community groups and any local clubs who wish to take up this opportunity can contact Kalbar Resources.