The state’s mining regulator has launched a formal investigation after two Woodvale ponds containing potentially toxic dust allegedly went dry.
Earth Resources Regulation will look into an alleged breach that could have risked arsenic-laden dust being blown off of a Woodvale evaporation ponds site.
It could culminate in prosecution and a court-imposed fine of up to $400,000 for Kralcopic Pty Limited, a subsidiary of GMB Gold.
Earth Resources Regulation last month ordered the ponds’ owners to minimise the risk of dust blowing off the site ahead of the peak summer period.
The regulator deemed the controls necessary to protect public safety and the environment until the site is rehabilitated.
There was a risk the dust could contain arsenic and Earth Resources Regulation stipulated the owners needed to keep the pond filled with between 100 and 200mm of water.
An environmental audit of the Woodvale evaporation ponds in June found the land could be reused for agriculture over time, despite the presence of toxic materials like arsenic.
A site inspection this week found two of three ponds empty, Earth Resources Regulation executive director Anthony Hurst said, triggering the investigation.
Earth Resources Regulation has also issued a new notice on owners to minimise the risk of dust blowing away from a number of unvegetated areas of the site.
A GBM Gold spokesperson said all notices received by the company had been responded to.
They said they were not aware of any investigation by ERR.
“In any event, as a matter of course, Earth Resources Inspectors regularly inspect sites and make various recommendations,” they said.
The GBM Gold spokesperson said Pond 6 was cleaned of salts and metals in 2008 and had only held rainwater since that time.
“Areas of the pond have naturally revegetated,” the spokesperson said.
“Earth Resources identified an area that is normally covered with rainwater and require some measures to be implemented to limit the dust potential.
“Dust from this dam would not be any different to any farm dam in the Bendigo district.”
They said Pond 7 had not held water since June 2015 and had been covered by natural revegetation.
“Earth Resources identified a couple of bare patches that require spraying with polymer,” they said.
GBM Gold contested last month’s notice, demanding it be withdrawn as the company had been ‘fully compliant with its obligations’.
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