Alcoa to modernise Anglesea plant agreement
The Victorian Government has introduced legislation before State Parliament that will see modernise the Agreement for Alocoa’s Anglesea coal mine.
The Victorian Government announced that negotiations with Alcoa had delivered ‘significant improvements’ that will see the environmental protection of 90 per cent of the leased area, with future mine expansions limited to around three per cent of the leased area.
Alcoa has been operating the mine under an agreement dating back to 1961 and had advised the former Government in 2008 that it would exercise its right to extend the lease for a further 50 years.
Alcoa was under no legal obligation to modernise the Agreement, however additional important benefits have been secured through good faith negotiations.
Under the revised Agreement, Alcoa's Anglesea mine will:
- submit a mine work plan for approval by the Coalition Government, mapping out planned mine activities, identifying potential environmental impacts and detailing how any impacts will be managed;
- be limited to less than ten per cent of the leased area (665 hectares out of a total of 7,145 hectares). The current mine area is 419 hectares, and any future mine expansion is limited to 246 hectares, or around three percent of the total lease area;
- be subject to a new environmental review process, based on the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act, for any future expansion of mining activity within the specified area;
- lodge a $13.94 million bond to ensure proper rehabilitation of the site; and
- be subject to the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the preparation of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan.
The announcement comes as the Victorian Government has released the findings of an independent review into water quality issues in the Anglesea River.
The review, conducted by Professor William Maher, found low pH and elevated metal levels resulted from natural sources in the catchment.
The findings follow an investigation by then Environment Protection Authority (EPA) that linked fish deaths to low pH levels and elevated metals in the river system.
The Victorian Government responded by commissioning Professor Maher to conduct a review into:
- the history of acid events in the Anglesea estuary;
- sources of acidic water and metals to the estuary;
- the role of specific factors such as land-use in the catchment, licensed discharge into the river and water extraction; and
- options for remediation
Professor Maher concluded:
- Low pH waters resulted from natural processes in the catchment in which sulphides in coal and other pyritic materials are oxidized
- There is no evidence of any significant input of acid from oxidation of sulphur dioxide emitted from Alcoa's coal-fired power plant.
- A flush of acid occurs after prolonged periods of low rainfall, followed by soaking rain.
- Large amounts of aluminium, iron, boron and probably associated trace metals are generated and transported naturally during acid formation.
As a result of the review, a 24-hour monitoring station will be installed to measure real-time water quality data and to support the estuary's management.
Corangamite Catchment Management Authority will review the current Anglesea River Estuary Management Plan with other key agencies and input from the local community.
The EPA will develop an Anglesea River Response Plan with assistance from Surf Coast Shire and other relevant agencies. This plan will outline roles and responsibilities of all agencies in the effective management of the Anglesea estuary in the event of future incidents in the river.