Dubbo Zirconium Mine

I happened to be at the Council building recently and had a skim read of the Zirconium mine proposal on public display for comment. It was enough to raise some concern. Up to this point I assumed that if a mine was being built in today’s climate it would need to be relatively ‘clean’. Well this may not be the case and people in Dubbo would do well to educate themselves on the EIS and make a submission, which closes mid November. You can read it in detail online.

– The mine will produce up to 700,000 kg of dust into the air each year. (702768kg in year 15). One wood heater gives 36kg particulate emmissions per year, so the proposed Dubbo mine dust is approx 20,000 wood heaters worth of particles. (Source ‘Specialist Reports’, ‘Air Quality’ Table 18 p 2-40′)

– The Dubbo Zirconium mine will average over 260,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse emissions per year, that’s is the equivalent of 72,000 new Holden Commodores of green house gas emissions. (The new Holden Commodore emits 3.6t of Carbon Dioxide per year on average use.) (Source Table 4.3.4 p4-77)

– The mine will produce up to 100kg/hour of Sulphur dioxide, 100kg/hour of nitrous Oxide (NO2), 23kg/hour of SO3, 29kg/hour of Hydrochloric Acid plus other toxic gasses, all directly into the air! (Source: calculated from Table 2.15, p2-83)

– The mine will leave behind 6.7 million tonnes of toxic salt after it closes. That’s the equivalent of 2200 Dubbo Olympic pools full of toxic salt. 44 Truckloads of salt will be delivered to the mine each week. This salt will be used and afterwards the used salt will be classified as restricted solid waste. The mine operators have decided it it too expensive to dispose of this toxic salt (it will cost $33 million per year) so they are going to leave it behind! The proposal is to bury 6.7 million tonnes of toxic salt in plastic and leave it there, hoping it won’t leak into the groundwater. (Source: p2-79 “It is estimated that there will be between 6Mt and 7Mt of salt deposited over the 20 year life of the operation.”)

I encourage you to read the Environmental Impact Statement yourself and if you have any concerns you can make a submission online here at this link: http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=5251 :

It can be as simple as one line saying you support the mine but want fewer emissions and less dust, or that you don’t support the mine because of the dust and pollution.

Also, here is a very recent and timely paper on the bad health effects of dust and pollutants from mining.

Also here is my personal submission.

I’ve discovered (via the paper today) a typo in this page. The dust is 700,000 kg, not 700,000 tonnes. I’ve fixed that and I’ve also added references for all the other statements so you can check the sources for yourself!

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9 Responses to Dubbo Zirconium Mine

  1. Lyndal Cook says:

    I support the mine but want fewer emissions & less dust & less pollution. I don’t agree with the toxic salt being left behind.

  2. Col says:

    I agree that the levels of salt left behind is a serious concern and needs to be addressed.
    According to the environmental impact statement…
    “The radiation assessment of the Proposal shows that the impacts would be well below recognised exposure limits.“ Why is the radiation symbol at the top of this page?
    Note that the rock with the radioactive minerals are there now and the mine is not really very deep as mines go. At present, farmers plough up the land, vehicles drive on dirt roads and the wind blows, all kicking up dust containing these radioactive minerals. So I am not convinced that such airborne radioactive emissions is not already occurring – which is implied in the EIS.
    Regarding the chemicals you mentioned (SO2, NOx, HCl), the report indicates that no exceedances of the relevant air quality criteria are predicted at any non-Proposal related residences or landholdings. (i.e. building closer than the nearest part of Dubbo). Furthermore it says… “Notably, the background data set already contains two exceedances of the criterion,…” In other words, if the mine doesn’t go ahead, the area will still have excessive dust levels.
    Do you have other sources of information outside of the EIS?
    The paper you linked to that was supposedly about dust and pollution from mining is not just about mining. It is about a number of air quality issues. Amongst its recommendations is an emission standard for diesel engines – I assume this would include farm machinery, and diesel powered cars. I assume then that if you are in favour of these recommendations, then you would voluntarily limit the use of such diesel engines. It also recommends efficiency and emission standards for wood heaters. The easier way for people who complain about such air quality issues would be for them to not have wood heaters – right? I hope we are not picking out only parts of the recommendations nor being hypocritical.
    I also note these minerals to be mined are useful for the development of green technologies.

  3. wayne says:

    Col did you read this?


    And this.


    I assume all mines operate within EPA guidelines and all factories output within EPA limits or else they wouldn’t be approved, and yet Sydney and Newcastle have more smog than Dubbo. Yet we have lots of ploughing. Why is that?

    My submission is simply saying let’s be rigorous with minimum emissions at the mine.

  4. Wayne says:

    The two day excessive dust etc with pretty graph is a farce. The proposal says “Furthermore, it is noted that the line representing the background data set does not deviate from the lines representing cumulative impact to any great degree. ” This is because the graph is logarithmic!!! So that bigger differences are scaled down. Deceptive.

    Plus they never give actual P10 emissions anywhere in the report, only concentrations.

    One wood heater gives 36kg particulate emmissions per year, so the mine dust alone is approx 20,000 wood heaters worth of particles. That’s the more than the equivalent of every house in Dubbo putting in a wood heater, if you want to go down the wood heater line!

  5. Wayne says:

    The new Holden Commodore emits 3.6t of Carbon Dioxide per year. The Dubbo Zirconium mine is the equivalent of 72,000 new Holden Commodores on the road in Dubbo.

  6. Cathy N says:

    I will only support the zirconia mine if the emissions of the mine are as low as possible. I want the pollution, whether it be air, ground, or underground pollution, to be treated safely, so that no fault can be found in this treatment. Dubbo has a great standard of living, and is an enjoyable place to live because of this standard. Let us not ruin it by having a mine just outside the city polluting our great city. The mine should spend the money it needs to, to ensure that the pollution produced is dealt with correctly, and not become detrimental to those living in the Western Plains region. Let’s look to our future and not let money govern our decisions for the future. – posted with planning.nsw website

  7. Ken says:

    Air quality and water table security are my biggest concerns in relation to the Dubbo Zirconia Project. In relation to air quality please ensure the minimum allowable standards are set for this project ensuring that the high air quality we enjoy in the Dubbo region remains. For the water table I ask that further examination is made in relation to the storage of waste & surplus materials from the mining operations. It is unacceptable to put in jeopardy local water supplies through the burial of these waste and surplus materials because of cost concerns. Such a narrow view (cost based decision) endangers groundwater security for future generations of this region. – posted with new.planning website

  8. Wayne says:

    Alkane have responded to my letter here:

    Note they are saying in their letter to the paper ‘zero’ emissions. That’s great!!! That are also looking into other possibilities for the salt. Still worth writing and note submissions close mid November not October.

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