Talison Lithium is committed to sustainable development and regards the environmental management and rehabilitation of mining sites as among its highest priorities. The Company continuously reviews and improves its environmental management system to reduce the impact of mining on site and on neighbouring communities.
The Greenbushes Lithium Operation has stringent environmental operating conditions. The site is certified to International Standards ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System Requirements and ISO 14001:2014 Environmental Management System requirements by BVQI and is externally audited.
Talison Lithium’s key environmental responsibilities at the Greenbushes Lithium Operations include:
Rehabilitation of mined land to re-establish a self-sustaining, native forest ecosystem
Ensuring the quality of local water resources are maintained
Minimising the spread of weeds on site in accordance with an Integrated Weed Management Plan
Waste minimisation, employing a policy of reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible
Environmental monitoring in accordance with the Company’s operating licence
Providing Offset habitat to replace any habitat impacted by the mine’s operations.
Rehabilitation involves initial earthworks to reform the landscape, application of a 'topsoil' layer (usually soft rock or lateritic clay), followed by ripping and contouring to improve drainage and promote root growth. Available rocks, logs or forest litter are spread to provide habitat for local fauna.
Talison has a programme of progressive rehabilitation of waste rock landform and tailings storage facilities which is scheduled to coincide with available rehabilitation materials and equipment. Progressive rehabilitation has significant benefits which include early establishment of vegetation, which reduces dust levels and improves visual surroundings.
The overall objective of Talison’s rehabilitation programme is to establish a self sustaining healthy community with selected attributes compatible with surrounding forest, and landforms that blend with the mine’s undulating scarp location. To assist in this process seeds are collected during late Spring typically from a site within a 15 kilometre radius of the Greenbushes Lithium Operations. Seeding of rehabilitation areas is carried out in early Winter followed by planting of jarrah and marri seedlings. Weed control is an important component of rehabilitation during the first three years. The success of rehabilitation is monitored annual by assessing plant density and species variety.
The success of rehabilitation efforts at the Greenbushes Lithium Operations received recognition in 2006 when the Company was awarded a “Golden Gecko”. This award promotes and recognises outstanding environmental achievement in the Western Australian resources industry.
Talison Lithium partnered with local Blackwood Basin Group to create a wetland haven for wading birds at Schwenke’s Dam, an historic mining void created from tin and tantalum production in the 1950s and 1960s. The four- year project, completed in 2017, has resulted in the creation of a wetland habitat with low key recreational facilities for the community including walk trails, boardwalk and interpretive signage.
EXPANSION OF MINE WASTE ROCK LANDFORM
GREENBUSHES WESTERN AUSTRALIA (EPBC 2013/6904)
OFFSETS FOR MATTERS OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE (75.7 HA 2016 APPROVAL
In 2013,as part of Talison Lithium’s continued operations, approval was sought to expand the Waste Rock Landform resulting in the loss of 75.7 ha of habitat for threatened species. This action, under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was considered a controlled action specifically and Talison Lithium was requested to consider impacts of the proposal on the following Matters of National Significance (MNES):
Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) Vulnerable;
Baudin’s Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus Baudinii) Endangered; and
Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) Endangered.
Under the EPBC Act a habitat Offset is required to compensate for any loss of habitat that impacts (MNES). In 2016 an agreement was reached between Talison Lithium and a South-West grazing company which currently holds 121.7 ha of Black Cockatoo habitat which is under threat. Under the agreement a perpetual restrictive covenant has been placed on the 121.7 ha which will require the area to be maintained and managed for its value as native vegetation with improvement of its assessed habitat score from 7/10 to 8/10 over a 20 year period.
An Offsets Management Plan has been developed for this habitat and will be managed on behalf of Talison Lithium by the Blackwood Basin Group. The progress of the Offsets block will be reported and published annually. Links to the management plan and annual and reports can be found below.
GREENBUSHES TAILINGS STORAGE FACILITIES
Talison Lithium’s Greenbushes lithium mine in Western Australia has three (3) tailings storage facilities (TSFs); one is closed, one is on care and maintenance and one is in use. A new TSF is under design with construction expected to be undertaken in 2019.
The three (3) existing TSFs at Greenbushes are wet slurry deposition and have been constructed using the “upstream” construction methodology. The new TSF is proposed to be constructed using a “centreline” construction methodology.
The planned capital expenditure for the TSFs, including the proposed new TSF, are included in the announced capital for Talison expansion projects and estimated to range between $25 and $30 million of the total project cost over the next three to five years.
DAM INSPECTION OVERSIGHT AND PROTOCOL
Talison is compliant with relevant Western Australian legislation and adheres to the Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) standards.
Talison staff complete daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly inspections.
An independent certified design company performs monthly and annual inspection of all TSFs and water storage dams.
The last annual inspection was August 2018. The next annual inspection is expected to be in August 2019. In addition, a number of inspections have occurred as part of TSF and water storage dam construction activities since the last inspection.
A review of the inspection regime is currently in progress as part of an update to the operating manual for TSFs.
OPERATIONS AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE
There have never been any significant TSF structural integrity incidents or failures in Greenbushes. Greenbushes has an Emergency Management Plan (EMP) which incorporates a specific Emergency Response Plan (ERP) for TSFs. The TSF ERP is currently under review to include the current heights of the TSFs including the new proposed TSF. The last Dam Break Study for the TSFs was completed in 2014 and this is also under review.
A review of the TSF inspection regime is currently in progress as part of an update to the operating manual for the TSFs.
Other risk management activities include:
Ensuring a suitable design by experienced Design Engineers (Third Party Review to be completed as required);
Practicing strong QA/QC control during TSF and Water Storage Dam builds and Lifts including Design Consultant (GHD), sign off and issuance of a Construction Report which is issued to the Regulators;
Ensuring the monitoring and operating procedures of the TSFs are correctly identified and implemented; and
Maintenance of inspection regimes that are appropriate and completed in line with the frequency and quality required.
GREENBUSHES LITHIUM MINE EXPANSION
Talison Lithium is proposing to expand the existing Greenbushes Lithium Mine that has been operated for more than 30 years, to increase the production of spodumene (lithium mineral) from the operations. The expansion will require the current approved (authorised under the Mining Act 1978) operational boundary (Active Mining Area AMA) to be extended to the South, with a small extension also to the North, increasing the current (approved) area of 1,591 hectares (ha) to a 1,999 ha Mine Development Envelope MDE.
The expansion is currently undergoing assessment by the West Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and by the Federal Department of Environment and Energy(DotEE) as a Controlled Action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The proposal was formally referred to the EPA under Section 38 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act) on 29 June 2018 (EPBC Reference: 2018/8206) for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on potential impact on threatened species and communities which listed as Matters of National Significance (MNES). The DotEE advised on 19 August 2018 that under Section 87 of the EPBC Act the Proposal would be assessed by an accredited assessment for the West Australian Government. The EP Act Part IV Environmental Impact Assessment Process is the accredited process which applies to this proposal.
The Greenbushes Lithium Operations is located in the Blackwood Valley Catchment. Water for mineral processing is sourced from rainfall and stored in several process water dams and mining voids located on the site. Conservation of water is a high priority and process water is recovered and recycled. To ensure that surface water quality is maintained, measurement and reporting of water quality parameters in key water bodies is carried out on a weekly basis. Ground water monitor bores are located around the process plants and tailing dams and are monitored on a quarterly basis.
During the mining processes of blasting, crushing and grinding of ore, naturally occurring elements such as lithium minerals are liberated into the water. Talison is constructing a Water Treatment Facility to remove these elements before re-use (recycling) or discharge.
EMISSIONS CONTROL AND REPORTING
The Greenbushes Lithium Operations is located in a rural area and proximity to a township demands a strong commitment to the management of mine site emissions including dust and noise.
Talison Lithium has installed a noise monitoring station which is located on the sound wall between the mining areas and the town of Greenbushes. Noise is monitored continuously at this location and recording of noise “events” are collected. This data is reviewed daily to ensure compliance with regulation levels. Further monitors will be installed to the South-West of the mining operations as the mine expansion progresses.
Dust monitoring is also carried out to ensure compliance with licence conditions. Dust management strategies at the Greenbushes Lithium Operations include:
Monitoring current and forecast wind conditions using daily forecasts and real time wind speed and direction monitoring data to minimise off-site emissions as a result of blasting, construction and operations
Baghouse and scrubber system on driers to reduce particulates in stack emissions
Seeding accessible areas of tailings storage facilities with annual grasses or use of dust suppression products on exposed surfaces as required.
Management of tailings discharge lines to ensure moisture is maintained on exposed areas
Visual inspections for dust generation on a regular basis
Use of additional dust control measures where practical (eg a dust binding agent) and applying water and using dust suppressing chemicals on stockpiles
Ensuring all contractors and staff undertake inductsion which include raising awareness of the importance of dust control
Ongoing consultation with stakeholders to determine the success of the dust management measures
Ensuring dust monitoring is undertaken and the results reviewed
Suspending work in a particular area or for a nominated activity as deemed necessary
Applying progressive rehabilitation techniques to minimise exposed areas.
Integrated Weed Management at the Greenbushes Lithium Operations combines multiple weed management techniques aimed at reducing weed density. Ultimately, the aim is to prevent weeds setting seeds, or vegetatively reproducing, so that the weed population is reduced over time, reducing weed competition and preserving the natural environment. Talison Lithium employs a full time weed control officer and uses a variety of mechanical, biological and chemical methods to manage weeds at the Greenbushes Lithium Operations.
Talison Lithium recognises its responsibility to protect the environment by minimising waste and has a long term strategy to reduce the amount of waste generated. The strategy aims to:
Reduce solid waste going into landfill
Re-use potential waste materials whenever possible
Minimise packaging waste