The Company’s name has changed to Gippsland Critical Minerals to be in line with its geographic location and to refer to the critical nature of the minerals within the Fingerboards Deposit.
The company has been working through the Environment Effects Statement (EES) assessment and the recommendations made should the statutory decision makers support the project. The company believes the project can be rescoped to address the recommendations made to the benefit of the community and stakeholders.
The Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project is of global significance, underpinning the world’s effort to fight climate change by supplying rare earth minerals to renewable industries. Our plan for extracting these minerals will not only supply the nation and the world with essential resources, but will also greatly benefit Gippsland and Victoria environmentally and economically.
The project will employ hundreds of local jobs both directly and indirectly which will span over the 20 year life of the project. Along with the training and upskilling of the local workforce there will be a significant boost to the local economy which will leave East Gippsland with lasting benefits.
The mineral resource estimate of the Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project contains 1.19 billion tonnes of ore at 0.5% zircon, 1% titanium minerals and 0.1% rare earths.
Gippsland Critical Minerals plans to mine from areas of enriched grades, occurring close to the surface within the Fingerboards resource area. Only the higher grade and more accessible parts of the ore body will be mined. Gippsland Critical Minerals plans to produce over 8 million tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) from 170 million tonnes of ore over a 15-20 year period.
The area will be around 24-30 hectares. This open area is essentially maintained as the mining front progresses. This open area does not include the area taken up by stockpiles, plant and other infrastructure.
Four cells are open/active in various stages of activity which include:
- topsoil removal
- overburden removal
- mining of ore
Cell sizes will nominally be 300 metres long and 160 metres wide.
The void will have an average depth of 29 metres and a maximum depth of 50 metres.
The Australian government has designated 24 metals and non-metals as critical minerals. The list includes cobalt, titanium, vanadium, graphite and lithium; with one of the most crucial minerals being a group of elements called rare earths.
The full list of critical minerals designated by the Department of Geoscience, Australian government includes antimony, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cesium, chromium, cobalt, germanium, indium, lithium, manganese, niobium, platinum-group metals, potash, rare earth elements, rhenium, rubidium, scandium, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, rhenium, tungsten and vanadium.
To understand the importance of the mineral we have to learn where they are used in our day-to-day life and how they contribute to clean energy. Critical minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Demand for these minerals will grow quickly as clean energy transitions gather pace.
According to the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and resources, critical minerals are essential to the economic development of industrialised countries. These minerals have a range of high-tech applications across a variety of sectors of growing economic and strategic significances.
Critical minerals are used to manufacture advanced technologies including mobile phones, computers, fibre-optic cables, semi-conductors, banknotes, and defence, aerospace and medical applications. Many are used in low-emission technologies such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, and rechargeable batteries. Some are also crucial for common products such as stainless steel and electronics.
Risks to critical mineral supply chains can come about when mineral production or processing is dominated by individual countries or companies that could limit availability. Other risks include market immaturity, political decisions, social unrest, natural disasters, geological scarcity, pandemics and war.
The Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project can supply the highly valuable rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.
Despite the name, rare earths are not rare. These elements are in our oceans, in plants, in our soil, and in your body – indeed, there are tiny amounts in your bones. What is rare, is finding enough of these rare earth elements in a geological setting where they’re concentrated enough to be able to support a profitable mining operation.
Your mobile phone, electric vehicle, self-cleaning oven, bank notes, refrigerator, the Star of the South wind farm, and the super conducting ceramics in the power lines supplying electricity to your homes, all contain rare earths that could be sourced from the Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project.
The project is expected to generate direct employment for 200 people during construction and 200 people during operations. Operation will be 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and will be split into shifts.
Gippsland Critical Minerals aims to employ local people in the construction and operation of the project. We anticipate that about 80-85 percent of the 200-strong workforce will be sourced locally as the skills required are available locally. There are a number of roles that are specialised in nature and may have to be filled by people from outside the region.
Yes, we can source sufficient skilled workers from East Gippsland – there are many transferrable skills within the region and we have already been working with local skilled workers for some time - many work packages and jobs have already been awarded locally. Where we see gaps in skills we are prepared to train and develop workers to utilise them for our activities.
The Haunted Hills Formation (HHF) overlies the Coongulmerang Formation (the ore bearing sand).
The HHF comprises of layers of silty dispersive clay and sandy gravel. Flow of water, gradient of the land form, soil chemistry and vegetation influence the landscape’s resistance to erosion.
Controlling these factors during rehabilitation will allow a more stable landscape to be established post mining.
This is generally called progressive rehabilitation. It means that rehabilitation follows closely after mining. This is regarded as best practice for a number of reasons, including:
- Regular rehabilitation works develop and retain trained staff
- Ensures that areas done at any one time are not large
- Over time, methods are refined, equipment is optimised and readily available, and
- The area to be rehabilitated at closure is relatively small.
Rehabilitation involves creating a safe, stable, and functional landscape and the time taken to achieve these multiple outcomes can vary depending on geological, topographical, climatic and biological factors.
Consequently, there has been a lot of work to develop methods for assessing whether a rehabilitated area is on a reliable trajectory to rehabilitation success.
How soon a revegetated area can be considered “rehabilitated” depends on the complexity of the ecosystem being established. For example, some components such as large trees of course take many years to fully develop, whereas ground layer species (such as grasses and wildflowers) may only a few years to develop to maturity. It generally takes three to five years to demonstrate successful rehabilitation in open grassy woodlands whereas a tree dominated forest community may take ten to fifteen.
Yes, that is Gippsland Critical Minerals’s goal. Approximately two thirds of the proposed mine footprint is currently grazing pasture, and the aim is to restore those areas to a similar vegetation type. However, on other areas where there is currently forestry plantation, or steeper eroded slopes or road verges, there is the opportunity to restore the types of native communities that might have existed more than 200 years ago.
The aim is to restore a large portion of the project area back to Gippsland grassy redgum woodland at Fingerboards. This would be a great achievement because that is a nationally threatened plant community.
The aim is to return as much native diversity as possible – meaning hundreds of species. The ultimate aim is to create a landscape that incorporates productive agriculture, and resilient and diverse native communities, which represents an improvement on the land’s current form.
The restored native grassy woodland will represent a significant biodiversity, cultural and amenity asset to the region. The company will enter into discussions with government agencies or community groups with respect to taking over the management of this area.
All commitments and liabilities will pass on to the new owners in the event of the project or company being sold. A rehabilitation bond is required by the Victorian government to ensure that there are funds available for rehabilitation and closure in the event that a company is unable to meet these commitments. Any new owners would be required to secure this bond in the event of the project being sold.
Any project across Victoria with a proposed impact on native vegetation must comply with State guidelines and Federal legislation under the EPBC Act. Gippsland Critical Minerals is required to satisfactorily demonstrate that the biodiversity offsets required for the project can be obtained. There is a range of state offsets required for the Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project and these offsets will be secured prior to vegetation removal during each stage of the Project.
There are two types of biodiversity offsets required for the project:
- under the Commonwealth EPBC Act, and
- under the State government’s Native Vegetation Policy (the Guidelines).
The Commonwealth offset calculator is used to generate the total offsets for the EPBC Act-listed vegetation community. The area of proposed removal is used in the calculator together with several criteria regarding the proposed offset site(s).
Offsets are calculated by using the extent and quality of each Ecological Vegetation Class that has been obtained during detailed field assessments within the infrastructure layout. The spatial data is provided to DELWP and they provide a report known as the Native Vegetation Removal report that states the offsets that are required for the project.
One option is to have a security agreement (e.g. Section 173 Agreement, Section 69 Agreement or a Trust for Nature Covenant) over this area so that it is permanently protected and managed in the future.
The dams are for management of rainfall runoff, and run-off flows downhill to gullies. Gullies are perfect places to capture the water that comes off the site as they are convenient and logical places where water flows down-hill. Water is stored until it is cleaned and suitable for release, or stored for re-use around site in areas such as dust control, supplying revegetation, and a range of other purposes.
Yes, there are safeguards.
Surface water –a winter fill licence is sought where water will only be taken during periods of high flow. The licence has restrictions even during that period. If passing flow reduces below 1,400 megalitres per day, the extraction stops. Typically, farmers and other year-round licence holders will still have access to water below that level and they still continue to extract water per their licence conditions.
Groundwater – the system is already allocated. Approval from Southern Rural Water would be required to secure an allocation from another user who is willing to sell their entitlement. In conjunction with that approval for a groundwater licence, modelling confirms that if that process is approved and groundwater is extracted, there will not be interference with other nearby users.
Daily rainfall data (January 1901 to December 2017) was obtained from the Bureau of Metrology (BoM) rainfall station for Lindenow Station (Station Number 085050).
Lindenow Station was selected as the most appropriate weather station for daily rainfall records because of its proximity to the project area and the long duration of rainfall records available. Lindenow Station is located 10 kilometres east of the project area.
Although Mitchell River at Glenaladale (Station Number 085270) is in closer proximity to the site (approximately four kilometres away), rainfall records for the site commenced in December 2000. Records for the Lindenow Station commenced in 1897.
The investigations so far have included survey and subsurface testing. The results have broadly supported the model with the majority of artefacts (n=191) found on the dunes, 66 artefacts within the alluvial terraces and fans and 85 on the upper planar surfaces.
The Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project is required to prepare an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) under the Act prior to the issuing of permits that will allow the project to commence its operation.
A CHMP (ID 14969) is currently being prepared. The CHMP will continue to investigate the presence/absence of Aboriginal heritage sites through:
- Field assessments, both surface and subsurface
- Refinement of the site predictive model
- Continued consultation with the Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP)
After approval for the CHMP is obtained, the Project must comply with all CHMP conditions that may include site-specific and general management conditions to be implemented before the project commences, during the project and after the project has ended (as appropriate).
The project must also implement contingency measures (chance finds protocols) that provide clear instructions that must be followed in the event that aboriginal cultural heritage places or materials are discovered during the construction, operation or decommissioning of the project.
The site predictive model identified areas of high ridges (which are the remnant dunes), several alluvial terraces and fans along the incised gullies as well as the interface between the upper planar surfaces (the large flat areas) and the steep gullies (directly overlooking the gullies) as areas most likely to contain aboriginal heritage places.
Cultural Heritage Management Plan. This is a requirement when certain high impact activities are planned in an area of high cultural sensitivity or where an EES is required.
The CHMP is defined by the aboriginal heritage regulations to the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
It is a written report by a heritage adviser that includes results of an assessment whether desktop, subsurface testing, or survey, or all three.
A CHMP outlines conditions the sponsor has to fulfil during and after the activity.
Generally speaking, an approved CHMP is not a requirement of the EES but a demonstration that a CHMP is underway is required. A CHMP is required to be approved before a works plan is granted by Earth Resources Regulation (ERR). If the Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project gets through the EES gate, the next step is to apply for a mine work plan and that does require an approved CHMP. Gippsland Critical Minerals is now working at finalising the CHMP.
The Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA) is the guiding legislation by which Gippsland Critical Minerals is licensed and has an obligation to meet specific conditions through an approved work plan.
Other departments and agencies within the Victorian government have a level of regulatory responsibility for mining, including the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) who regulate pollution; WorkSafe Victoria, who enforce Victoria's occupational health and safety laws and help organisations avoid workplace injuries; and Local Government who are responsible for implementing the Victorian Planning Provisions in their local government area. The EPA will regulate noise and air quality.
Continuous air quality and noise monitoring will be conducted during construction and operations at locations representative of sensitive receptors (monitoring locations will change, depending upon the locations of mining activities).
The cost of any road construction or modification required for the Fingerboards Critical Minerals Project will be met by Gippsland Critical Minerals and has been factored in to the economic assessment of the Project. Gippsland Critical Minerals will contribute financially to the maintenance of these roads. Our first preference is to construct and maintain a private haul road.
Gippsland Critical Minerals will manage fire response within the project area during the life of the project. This will involve the development and implementation of a fire management plan (FMP) which will cover risk mitigation strategies, equipment needs, resourcing and actions. After operations, the management of fire risk will be undertaken by the relevant land manager (Gippsland Critical Minerals or other).
Directly impacted landowners will be compensated by Gippsland Critical Minerals as per the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA).
As mineral sands mining moves through the landscape, so too does the rehabilitation process behind; meaning that disruptions to farming operations are by no means permanent, and through careful planning and management, can be sustained.
Aside from where infrastructure (roads, rail siding, etc) is planned, Gippsland Critical Minerals intends to have farmland back to full production within three to five years of mining. During that period it is possible (if the landowner chooses) for Gippsland Critical Minerals to find suitable land for stock and grazing either on the project area or elsewhere.
A sensitive receptor is a land use or activity that has the potential to be affected by environmental impacts such as noise, dust, etc. Sensitive receptors will differ depending on which environmental impact is being assessed, but may include dwellings, schools, recreation areas, community buildings, etc.
Enforceable penalties will be applied as per the conditions of our mining license under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA).