The Environment Protection Authority issues pollution abatement notices for mine areas in Maiden Gully, one in the California Gully Bushland Reserve

MOUND: An example of a mullock heap, or mine tailings site, in Long Gully. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
MOUND: An example of a mullock heap, or mine tailings site, in Long Gully. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

The state’s environmental regulator has ordered the clean-up of a number of toxic mine tailings sites across the region, in a bid to minimise health risks on public land. 

The Environment Protection Authority has issued pollution abatement notices for two historic mining areas in Maiden Gully and one in the California Gully Bushland Reserve.

The EPA said the sites contain calcine sand deposits which are purple in colour and have a high concentration of arsenic, and occasionally other contaminants like mercury.

The calcining process used tailings from which free gold had been extracted, and treated the tailings with chemicals.

This process released gold but also concentrated arsenic-containing minerals. 

And while the EPA said the deposits at the three locations posed little immediate risk to public or environmental health due to lack of access to the sands and them being predominantly covered by either vegetation, soil or spray on mulch, the regulator still required access to be better managed at certain sites.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning manages the two Maiden Gully sites – at Clay Gully and 195-221 Marong Road.

*Story continues below post. Markers do not necessarily indicate exact locations.

DELWP said at Marong Road, sand was recently moved from the northern and western fences to a location further inside the site and the sands were sprayed with a polymer coating to suppress dust.

The area was recently fenced and signage erected to prevent public access.

At the Clay Gully, Maiden Gully site, DELWP will fence off the Clay Gully dam and put signage on site to prevent public access in June. 

A DELWP spokesperson said it takes its role as manager of Crown land seriously and is working with the EPA and Parks Victoria to ensure the EPA’s pollution abatement notice requirements are met, and the community and the environment is protected from any possible risk on potentially contaminated land.

Parks Victoria manages the California Gully Bushland Reserve and its district manager Peter Foster said four stockpiles of calcine sands at the reserve were moved to a large purpose-built pit on adjacent Crown land managed by DELWP and capped. He said area will be fenced by the end of July.

“All sands that the EPA ordered to be relocated from the California Gully Bushland Reserve have been moved and capped, so they are no longer exposed. This work happened in the past week,” he said on  Friday.

A plan to recover residual gold from mine tailings near the Bendigo creek in Huntly was last year given conditional approval by the state’s mining regulator, Earth Resources Regulation.

A plan to recover residual gold from mine tailings near the Bendigo creek in Huntly was last year given conditional approval by the state’s mining regulator, Earth Resources Regulation.

“Capping of some remaining minor exposed sand in the reserve will be done by mid next week.”

Mr Foster said ranger patrols will be increased at the reserve to manage visitor behaviour.

A plan to recover residual gold from mine tailings near the Bendigo creek in Huntly was last year given conditional approval by the state’s mining regulator, Earth Resources Regulation.

However the project, which aims to remove three million tonnes of tailings from a reserve adjoining the creek and process it for gold, is yet to begin.

Another site the EPA requires ongoing monitoring of is the Liddell's Calcine Sands, off Derwent Gully Road, Long Gully. 

The sands needed rehabilitation in 2010 after the Black Saturday fires exposed arsenic-ridden soil left over from Bendigo's gold-mining heritage.

Mr Foster said since the works, which capped the sands with a layer of clay-based soil and planted ironbark forest vegetation at the site at a cost of $2 million, an annual monitoring program has been put in place to ensure the site remains safe.

The EPA urged to public to report sightings of the calcine sands to 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) or at www.epa.vic.gov.au  

Further information on how to prevent arsenic exposure can be found at: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/publications/policiesandguidelines/Are-you-Living-in-an-Area-with-Mine-Tailings