Mine compliance

It’s amazing that it has taken as long as it has for someone from the Strathalbyn Community Consultative Committee (SCCC) to lose patience with Terramin Australia and its management of the tailings dam at the Angas Zinc Mine.The amount of ponded water in that facility might not pose a risk to public safety but it is way over its licensed limit and has been that way for most of the three years the mine has been operating.
At meeting after meeting the SCCC has been told that solutions are being pursued, the situation is in hand and yet critical measures continue to rise.
Mike Farrier has made few friends by ignoring committee protocols and going public with his concerns about PIRSA’s failure to enforce compliance.
But he obviously felt he had no choice but to go over the head of the committee chairman to the Mining Resources Development Minister himself, Tom Koutsantonis, and ask him not only to intervene but to explain why the company’s non-compliance had been tolerated for so long.
No-one else was asking that question on behalf of the community at that level, even though the chairman, Charles Irwin, and fellow committee member and local MP Adrian Pederick, share Mr Farrier’s frustration.
Mr Irwin says the water issue has “dragged on for far, far too long”.
Even being mindful of the jobs and the economic benefits flowing from the mine, Mr Pederick says the SCCC has been “too patient” about the dam and has given Terramin “too much rope”.
So why isn’t the Minister intervening?
Mr Koutsantonis’ office said PIRSA was the regulator and the Minister had been assured that the department “has and will continue to make sure the Angas Zinc Mine complies with regulations”.
The mine isn’t compliant – that’s the point.
If there’s no problem with the dam being 10 times over its licensed ponded water limit for an extended period of time, why have the regulation in the first place?
Why not admit the water modelling was wrong and change the regulations so the SCCC can stop wasting its time advocating on behalf of the community?
The Government’s failure to hold a regulator to account raises serious questions about its own ability to stay on top of environmental issues at the $30b Olympic Dam expansion.
Angas Zinc Mine’s toxic tailings dam is a puddle compared to the world’s biggest tailings dam which is designed to take eight billion cubic metres of waste.
If the regulators cannot enforce compliance at the Angas mine, how much confidence can South Australians have that the same agencies can stay on top of that complicated monster?