Fingerboards environmental effects statement released

KALBAR Operations has released the environment effects statement for the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Project, after three years of technical investigations and community consultation.

The EES – to be on public exhibition for at least 40 business days, 10 more than usual – has been prepared by Kalbar as directed by state Planning Minister Richard Wynne and guided by a multiagency technical reference group.

After earlier concern that COVID-19 and a fee would make access to the EES difficult for some people, the state government provided $40,000 through the Community Advisor Grants program to support “community involvement”.

But Mine-Free Glenaladale spokesperson Debbie Carruthers said the four-year time frame to finalise the EES “is flagging there have been significant problems trying to address the environmental risks”.

In the absence of a physical display of printed copies in public places, the EES documents can be accessed for free online.

For people without internet, there are hard copies available through an expressions of interest process.

The proposed mining method involves open pit mining to extract about 170 million tonnes of ore during a projected mine life of 20 years.

The project area is about 1675 hectares and it is proposed to establish two mining plants, a processing plant, water supply infrastructure, tailings storage and additional site facilities including an office, warehouse, workshop, loading facilities and fuel storage.

According to Kalbar, the Fingerboards is considered to be one of the world’s most significant mineral sands resources, providing zircon, titanium minerals (rutile and ilmenite) and rare-earth minerals for use in technology, transport, renewables, medical, household and personal applications.

Kalbar chief executive Jozsef Patarica said releasing the EES was a major milestone for the project and an opportunity for the community and stakeholders to review the scientific evidence and information and make submissions.

“We have met the requirements for the EES studies and have asked for, and received, a great deal of community feedback over the past three years,” he said.

“This project can bring many benefits to east Gippsland and the EES demonstrates that the project can be delivered with appropriate management of environmental impacts.”

But Mine-Free Glenaladale spokesperson Debbie Carruthers said the four-year time frame to finalise the EES “is flagging there have been significant problems trying to address the environmental risks”.

“All the data and scientific information contained in the EES is sourced and funded by Kalbar, detailed information we haven’t had access to until now,” she said.

“The government is releasing the EES for public exhibition despite our many unanswered emails and legal letters requesting a delay due to the bushfires plus the lockdowns and stresses caused by coronavirus.

“At a time when our community is reeling from these pressures it is particularly gut-retching and unfair to have to respond at this time.”

Mr Wynne said despite challenges presented by the pandemic, it was important the community still had access to what it needed to stay informed and to make submissions.

“For any major project proposed, it’s crucial we assess its environmental effects to avoid or minimise impacts on the community or the environment,” he said.

“Exhibition of this EES is an important step, and we encourage community groups and residents to request their own copies of the EES and make their views known.”

The mine proposal has been heavily criticised by environmentalists and some east Gippsland farmers who rely on the water and a clean growing environment of the Lindenow horticultural region – known as the Gippsland food bowl.

Protestors claim the mine will create dust pollution and put water security at risk, as it will use more than three gigalitres of water a year.

Acting on community concern, late last year Victorian Resources Minister Jaclyn Symes announced a 4000-hectare exclusion zone for the Mitchell River floodplain from Glenaladale to Hillside, recognising the region generated more than $100 million per year and provided up to 2000 permanent and seasonal jobs.

However, protestors were disappointed the proposed Fingerboards mine is located just outside the exempted area.

Along with the EES process, the project also requires a works approval under the Environment Protection Act 1970 and a cultural Heritage Management Plan under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 as well as approvals under the Water Act 1989 for extraction of surface and-or groundwater, and permits relating to native flora and fauna species listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

The EES is exhibited for public comment at, with documents also available on the Fingerboards Project website, or by phoning Kalbar Operations.