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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 127

Senator Brown asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 21 October 2004:

With reference to the abandoned Woodsreef asbestos mine, located east of Barraba in New South Wales:

(1) Is the Government aware of any study as to whether the tailings dump from the mine currently constitutes either: (a) a health hazard to nearby communities; or (b) a pollutant risk to river systems, whether localised or impacting significant components of the Murray-Darling river system.

(2) Given the interest of Pacific Magnesium Corporation in re-opening the site in order to extract magnesium from the tailings, is the Government aware of any assessment of the environmental impact of such a development.

(3) (a) Has there been any rehabilitation work performed on the site since the mine was closed; (b) are there any plans for such work to be commenced; and (c) is such work dependent upon a decision as to whether the site will be reopened for the extraction of magnesium.

Senator Ian Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) (a) and (b) I am advised that the New South Wales Department of Mineral Resources report “Woodsreef: A Study Of Risk” found that:

Asbestos inhalation was considered to be the dominant health risk presented by the site, accounting for 90% of the total risks. The risks however were not considered to be significant given the low level of exposure.

Ecological and public health risks due to chemical pollution and leaching were considered to be negligible.

Risks due to failure of the waste and tailings dumps were considered to be negligible.

(2) No formal environmental impact assessment process has been initiated under NSW legislation or the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

(3) (a) Yes. (b) I am advised that in answer to a question in the New South Wales Parliament in May 2004 the Minister for Resources stated that the New South Wales Derelict Mines Committee may consider allocating funds for rehabilitation works at Woodsreef in 2005. (c) The nature and extent of rehabilitation work undertaken at the Woodsreef site is a matter for the New South Wales Government.