A DUBBO man wants the state government to can the $1 billion Dubbo Zirconia Project (DZP), partly because its Toongi operations would “release up to 700,000 tonnes of slightly radioactive dust into the air each year”.
It’s a claim that the owner and proponent of DZP calls “ridiculous”.
Alkane Resources also rejects Wayne Connor’s claim that it will leave behind “toxic salt” in plastic, “hoping it won’t leak into the groundwater”.
The government is yet to approve the DZP for which an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently on public exhibition.
Mr Connor “had a skim read” of the EIS at Dubbo’s Civic Administration Building before lodging a submission with the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, and sending it to the Daily Liberal along with a letter to the editor.
The letter calls on Dubbo residents to consider making their own submissions and highlights three of his concerns, including the two aforementioned.
Alkane Resources has responded with advice that it intends to mine and process one million tonnes of ore per year.
“So to lose 700,000 tonnes of ore as dust is ridiculous,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
The company said radiation occurred naturally within the environment of the Central West, including rocks and soil in Dubbo, Toongi and Wellington, and in the clays in the Macquarie River.
It said on average Australian adults received a 0.6 to 1.1mSv (Sievert) radiation dose from inhaled radon per year.
The average dose a person got from a flight from Sydney to Perth was 0.05mSv.
The spokesperson said the radiation levels from dust and radon at the closest residential receiver to the DZP site at Toongi was estimated to be no more than 0.03mSv per year.
“This is well below the average radiation dose received by an Australian adult and well below the international public dose standard, 1mSv per year,” the company spokesperson said.
Mr Connor, whose home on the outskirts of Dubbo will be “downwind in summer” of the proposed mine, said used salt left behind at Toongi would be slightly radioactive and the $33 million a year cost of disposing it was considered too costly by the mine operator.
“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,” he said.
But Alkane Resources insisted “our operation and salt residue” will not impact on “limited groundwater” within the Toongi deposit and immediate surrounds.
It reported that Macquarie River clays/sediments contained naturally occurring radioactive material from erosion of soil due to clearing and farming, and the concentration of uranium and thorium in the waste salt was less than currently in the Toongi ore.
“The salt residue will be encapsulated within two HDPE plastic liners, separated by leak detection and management system, within purpose built low permeability cells,” the spokesperson said.
“Bores will be installed around the cells to monitor for any change in groundwater quality which could indicate, the highly unlikely, breach of the liner. This is considered to be one of the most sophisticated, monitored and protective systems available.”
The spokesperson said the company was currently conducting research and development work on the “possibilities of recovering most of the salts for reuse in the process”.