The Department of Environment and Energy have approved Tellus Holdings Ltd’s Sandy Ridge Facility, which is set to reside within the Goldfields Region of Western Australia.
Tellus is proposing to construct and operate Australia’s first dual open-cut kaolin (clay) mine and arid near-surface geological waste repository, the Sandy Ridge Facility, approximately 75 kilometres north-east of Koolyanobbing.
There are two key aspects of Tellus’ proposal. The first involves mining kaolin primarily for export to Asia or the domestic ceramic clay market, with the second aspect involving storing hazardous, intractable and low-level radioactive wastes within the void spaces left from mining operations.
Western Australia holds several world-class kaolin deposits, however to this day none of these deposits have been developed on a commercial scale due to issues with development and operating costs.
Tellus has stated that the Sandy Ridge Kaolin Mine Project will overcome these economic disincentives due to the synergies of operating a dual revenue kaolin and waste repository on the same site, which allows the company to collect two revenue streams.
Up to 290,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of kaolin clay is expected to be mined at the site, with 100,000 tpa of Class IV and V waste expected over 25 years.
The project is also anticipated to create up to 100 jobs during its construction phase.
Approval for the Sandy Ridge Facility was granted under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act following five conditions, which directly relate to the implementation of surface water monitoring and management, the development of a deep groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan and a requirement to implement the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan.
Further to this, only wastes generated within Western Australia, other Australian States and Territories, and the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone can be accepted by the facility, (subject to meeting the facility’s waste acceptance criteria).
In response to the Department’s approval, Tellus Managing Director, Duncan van der Merwe said the Sandy Ridge Facility provides much needed sustainable infrastructure that can assist in ‘cleaning up country’, supporting the circular economy, creating jobs and generating business opportunities.
“Australia is one of the largest emitters of hazardous waste on a per capita basis. A massive legacy stockpile has built-up across WA and the country as there is insufficient world’s best practice infrastructure at competitive price points,” he said.
The company’s next steps involve obtaining the Facility’s Works Approval and Operating Licenses.
More information on the Sandy Ridge Kaolin Mine Project can be found here.