A MINING company has ruled out rail as an option in transporting ore from a reinvigorated Woodlawn Mine. Instead, TriAusMin Limited, which aims to produce an average 120,000 tonnes annually of zinc, copper and lead concentrate from the Tarago district operation, wants to rely on trucks.
The prospect of more heavy vehicles on the road doesn’t exactly excite the Tarago and District Progress Association. But in this case, there’s an upside to the $150 million project.
“We are always concerned about extra trucks on the road,” president, Judy Alcock said.
“But people can see the direct benefits in terms of jobs and the environment. Anything that cleans up the old tailings dams has to be a positive.”
Not surprisingly, the publican, who has a mining background, is reportedly excited about the economic boost. The development is estimated to generate 150 fulltime jobs during construction and 250 operational positions. TriAusMin is keen to tap into former Woodlawn miners’ expertise, 14 years on from that facility’s closure.
The company’s environmental assessment for the project is on public exhibition. On Friday representatives met with Tarago locals about their concerns and on Saturday with Goulburn residents.
The project comprises two phases – processing of 11 million tonnes of tailings material from three dams at the old Woodlawn Mine and underground mining, which is dependent on further exploration.
The company’s managing director and CEO, Wayne Taylor, said he hoped to start construction on the tailings aspect late this year, ready for commercial production in early 2014.
It’s all subject to state government approval.
“In regard to the underground mine, we’d hope to be on line three years into the tailings project (2017),” he said.
“There’s some work to do there in terms of exploration but we’re coming up with some very encouraging results.”
TriAusMin is exploring 173 square kilometres of the Lachlan Fold Belt.
Mr Taylor said while the tailings dams had a finite resource, the project’s longevity hung on underground discoveries. On this he was confident of finding more material, as previously Woodlawn mined a wide area, including out to Currawang and Cowley Hills, 2km north of the site.
Analysts indicate a 13-year life but the company is applying for a 21-year approval.
They say there’s potential to extend its life. The ore would be transported to Port Kembla, Newcastle or Port Botany. But getting to that point may cause further disruption to Tarago residents’ lives.
The assessment estimates another 10 B-doubles, each carrying 44 tonnes, 265 days a year. It comes on the back of an extra 54 trucks daily, approved with the Woodlawn bioreactor’s expansion.
TriAusmin has ruled out a direct rail link to the site or sharing the bioreactor’s intermodal at Crisps Creek.
“Rail transport (in combination with road) would have less social and environmental impacts, but would come with a significant financial penalty and increased operational risk,” the environmental assessment states. “Use of the intermodal is not considered viable.
Veolia’s current operations, in addition to the bioreactor expansion project would require full and exclusive use of Crisps Creek intermodal.” Asked whether his company would consider building a rail spur directly to operations, in conjunction with Veolia, Mr Taylor said TriAusMin “wouldn’t close the door on any opportunity to improve logistics.”
He said extension of Main Road 92 through Tarago and over to the Federal Highway would provide a better road transport option, rather than using local roads.
The mining outfit has agreements with Veolia, including a call option to buy land covering proposed mining, a deed of assignment on property owned by Veolia and a cooperation agreement on use of facilities and binding TriAusmin to the tailings dams’ rehabilitation.
But the project’s future also depends on finance.
Mr Taylor said it had a strong business case and he was talking to several parties. “It’s in the very early stages,” he said.
“It also depends on how world markets go but at this stage I think we’ll be able to do it.”
With a supply squeeze on zinc predicted by 2014 and copper demand expected to grow by 3.4pc annually to 2025, Mr Taylor believed the revived Woodlawn venture could help fill the void.
The environmental assessment is on public exhibition until May 28. Hard copies are available for perusal at Goulburn Mulwaree Council and Tarago Real Estate.
TRIAUSMIN representatives say they want the company to be a good corporate citizen. Chief executive Wayne Taylor is not ruling out a joint agreement with bioreactor operators, Veolia Environmental Services to enhance the community.
“There is some advantage in sitting down with Veolia and working on our involvement with the community,” he told the Post.
“We work out of the same site and issues that arise may affect both parties. It makes sense to take a consistent approach. We’re not sure at this stage what the community wants but we’re happy to sit down and work it out.”
Veolia operates the Mulwaree Trust, which has distributed more than $4.5 million to community projects in this and adjoining council areas since its establishment in 2004.
It is based on a per cent/tonne of waste received at the Tarago district bioreactor. Mr Taylor said his company’s set-up would depend on “the unique climate of the community.”
If approved, operators of the revived Woodlawn Mine would pay $10 million on just the seven and a half year life of the tailings dams.
This money goes into a central fund and is not necessarily directed back to the area.