Tellus Holdings Pty Ltd is planning a massive duel revenue project of salt mining and geological waste storage. Petroleum exploration discovered a large salt deposit south of Tjitjikala that is several kilometres wide and around 300 metres thick. Tellus has already submitted an environmental impact statement about the project which ALEC has reviewed and made a submission on.
Our submission addressed water contamination risks associated with waste disposal, inadequate consultation with the Tjitjikala community, enabling effect on the fracking industry and the regulation of waste storage.
As it currently stands mining projects are exempt from licencing under the Water Act and the Waste Management Pollution Act which means that the company is not legally obliged to licence their waste disposal actions or the amount of water they use. They are also not liable for contamination that occurs on the mining tenement. This means there may not be full and frank disclosure of the concentration and volume of wastes to be stored.
A significant unknown is the full lifecycle of the project. The salt deposit will be viable for many decades beyond the stated lifespan of 29 years. If the project goes ahead it will be committing the region to a long legacy of permanent waste disposal with increased industrialisation of the landscape south of Alice Springs.
Telllus is intending to create a market for international and domestic waste for permanent geological storage in the salt. One way that waste will be stored is through hydraulic back filling which involves the mixing of hazardous waste with salt water (from CSG or fracking) and pumping this mixture underground. This method is practiced around the world but it is not without its risks as the salt formation underground is constantly moving. ALEC is concerned that decades down the track, there will be no monitoring to determine if water is leaking into the void space and there is leaching of the contaminants. Over time “salt creep” may open fissures in the rock and create contamination pathways.
The company is intending to transport, in the years of full operation, up to 300,000 tonnes of hazardous waste. These wastes include asbestos, heavy metals, contaminated soil, building material, PCBs and other chemical and industrial wastes.
Tjitjikala and Native Title
In late March ALEC visited Tjitjikala and spoke with the community in detail about the hazardous waste storage. Through the use of an independent interpreter, we were able to provide more information to the community than the company had through their consultation. We are trying to ensure that the community has as much information about the project as possible so they can make a properly informed decision. While the community is supportive of economic benefits, they are concerned that Tellus will not be able to provide the jobs that they promised.
The project is planned on the sites of two Native Title claims that are now progressing. These are the Maryvale and Henbury Native Title claims. Transparent discussion and agreement with the company will be necessary for the groups to reach indigenous land use agreements that are required before the project can progress.
ALEC will continue to work with people who are connected to the project to provide them with as much information and support as they need. We want to ensure that there is appropriate regulation of the waste and are requesting greater clarity about exactly how the waste will be regulated through the EPA. These questions are especially pertinent now that the NT government is introducing sweeping reforms to environmental law and pollution control.
The EIS consultation is now closed and the company is preparing a supplementary report in response to public comments.
The company has prepared a comprehensive list of environmental, economic and social documents that can be viewed at:
If you have concerns about this project contact the people below:
Contact Environment Minister Lauren Moss
[email protected] and 08 8999 6343
Contact Chief Minister Gunner
[email protected] and 08 8999 6437
Call the Arid Lands Environment Centre and see how you can get involved www.alec.org.au ; 90 Gap Rd, The Gap, 08 8952 2497
Express your concerns to Tellus at [email protected] 92387678