Former Land and Environment Court commissioner, Professor Mark Taylor, admits Lue residents are in a difficult position with the possible onset of a silver mine.
Speaking at Lue Community Hall on Saturday, Mr Taylor addressed more than 100 people about his and others’ work relating to the effects of lead on communities across Australia.
The Macquarie University academic spoke about risk factors of mining and refining lead, myths presented by mining companies and the results of constant lead contamination.
Professor Taylor agreed Australia’s monitoring of dust, lead and other contaminants had improved and that blood lead levels had decreased in Australia from 1990 to 2010.
However evidence from his studies show a lot still needs to be done in managing lead emissions.
One particular study exposed the amount of lead being distributed across playing fields at Port Pirie in South Australia.
A participant wore gloves and played on a field in a series of 20 minute intervals to see how much lead would settle on her hands.
One recording counted 49,000 micrograms per square metre. Mr Taylor said the regulatory standard for playing fields is about 1000 and in some states is as low as 400 micrograms per square metre.
As a result of his research, the respective playing fields are now washed on a regular basis to rid the ground of excess lead. However the smelter at Port Pirie has not been closed.
It is recognised that the proposed Lue mine site at Bowden’s Silver Project is more than unlikely to see any smelter – but Mr Taylor said that should not stop residents making sure mining and monitoring systems were best practice.
He cited an example where monitoring was flawed at Xstrata’s Mt Isa Mines. In their Air Quality Control document it states “the AQC system will allow westerly winds to blow emissions from the stacks over the city at night time and during early mornings when there is a cool air inversion at low level, which minimises the chances of the plume reaching the ground”.
Mr Taylor said regulatory bodies, particularly closer to smelters almost turned a blind eye to problems in those communities. He said one particular Environment Protection Authority was “not only asleep at the wheel but looking the other way”.
The professor also explained the length of time fine lead particles could last in the atmosphere in different situations. When quizzed about the impact of lead possibly carrying to Kandos, Mr Taylor said he believed it would be minimal.
However, he warned the smallest exposure could have the biggest impacts on resident’s health, as it would create a cumulative effect by the time lead levels increased.
He cited examples of lead poisoning in children at Port Pirie and loss of IQ points seen in some children in other studies.
He said one example of a mine that may be similar to Lue would be Angas Mine in Strathalbyn, South Australia.
Report from liason group
The first Community Liason Group meeting for the Kingsgate development at Bowden’s Silver Project was held recently.
Members of the CLG addressed the public meeting at Lue Community Hall on Saturday to keep local residents up to date.
The members stressed the CLG was not a Community Consultative Committee which is only started once mining approval is given.
The group negotiated with Kingsgate to have chapters of the Environmental Impact Statement released before it was submitted as one document potentially in quarter four of this year.
The group was also addressed by a person from the Department of Planning who suggested mining royalties paid by Kingsgate would tally about 4-7 per cent of profit less deductions.
The 500kv transmission line running at the back of Kingsgate’s exploration licence is also not going to be moved.
The Lue Action Group is hosting an Environmental Defender’s Office workshop meeting on Saturday, July 28, at Lue Community Hall from 10am. All welcome.