In April 2022, Balmaine Gold negotiated an operations management arrangement with Melbourne-based private equity company Arete Capital Advisory. This a positive development for Balmaine, as it provides access to Arete’s experience in managing mining projects in regional Victoria along with avenues for capital investment that will ensure sustainable and sound economic development of the Ballarat Gold Mine.
Currently, Ballarat Gold Mine operates the Terrible Gully Tailings Storage Facility (TSF3) as its sole tailings storage facility, which has been in use since 2006. TSF3 is a gully infill design and is located immediately south of the mine, to the east of the Central Highlands Water Ballarat Sewage Treatment Plant (Figure 1). TSF3 has reached its design capacity and the Ballarat Gold Mine requires a new tailings storage facility to continue its operations.
In 2018, Ballarat Gold Mine initiated investigations, design and approval of a new tailings storage facility in the adjoining Whitehorse Gully, referred to as TSF4. A work plan for TSF4 was endorsed by Earth Resources Regulation in 2020.
Shortly thereafter, mine management halted the approvals process for TSF4 in favour of trialling an alternative dry stacked tailings disposal methodology. Over the period 2021 and early 2022, a Work Plan Variation has been progressed to approve a dry stack tailings facility adjacent to TSF3. Once approved, the dry stacked facility will afford the mine approximately two years of tailings deposition capacity whilst approval of TSF4 is progressed and the facility is being constructed. Under Ballarat Gold Mine’s strategic mine plan, TSF4 is integral to the mine’s ability to continue to operate and, as such, approval of the facility has been re-initiated.
The Ballarat Gold Mine plans to submit a planning permit application to the City of Ballarat for TSF4. Additional community engagement activities will be undertaken as part of the permit application requirements. Once processed, this permit will be submitted to Earth Resources Regulation to enable the endorsed Work Plan to be approved. Pending final Work Plan approval, construction of TSF4 is expected to commence in 2023. TSF4 will be located north of Whitehorse Rd and south of the current TSF3 tailings storage facility. Part of this area was burnt in the 2018 bushfire and the remainder consists of pine plantation.
A concept design for TSF4 has been completed and detailed design has been initiated. The facility will be approximately the same size as TSF3 and built using similar construction methods.
We have created this webpage to assist engagement with the Ballarat community regarding the TSF4 project and present information on our operations more generally. We are taking extensive measures to minimise adverse disruption or effects to the neighbouring community during the construction and operation of TSF4.We are open to hear from citizens on what actions the Ballarat Gold Mine can take to improve its efforts.
The Ballarat Gold Mine has developed a specific Community Engagement Plan for the proposed Whitehorse Gully TSF aiming to:
Additional community engagement activities will be undertaken under the direction of the City of Ballarat as part of the planning permit application requirements.
In 2020, Balmaine reached out to the neighbouring community about TSF4 via letter drop and an article in the Community Newsletter. A similar letter has been sent in August 2022 to communicate that the TSF4 project has been reinitiated and prioritised by Balmaine.
The following survey aims to gather comments from the Ballarat community on the perceived effects of Ballarat Gold Mine’s operations on their lifestyle and to receive feedback on the actions Balmaine can take to improve its current measures and communication materials to lessen negative effects residents are experiencing related to the operations of the mine and TSF4.
The expectation is that during construction and operation of the TSF4 project, there will be minimal disturbance or effects to the neighbouring community and the environment. Balmaine has undertaken several investigations to assess the potential effects of TSF4 on the environment and the Ballarat community, including the following:
A Risk Management Plan has been prepared, which sets out the potential effects to the environment and the community as a result of the proposed activities. The Risk Management Plan sets out mitigation, control and monitoring measures that will be implemented to ensure any potential effects are adequately reduced.
Mining is a highly regulated industry and the Ballarat Gold Mine complies with over one hundred specific conditions detailed by EPA Victoria, Earth Resources Regulation and the City of Ballarat. These licence conditions include specifications regarding noise, surface water and groundwater, traffic, vibration, air quality, land management and a range of other aspects.
The proposed area within Whitehorse Gully for the new tailings storage facility has been fenced to prevent public access and protect the community from existing hazards and during future construction and operations. The informal Tinworth Avenue walking track will be retained and mine management is currently looking at opportunities to improve the positive recreational uses of this space. City of Ballarat and the Ballarat Gold Mine are in the process of installing gates and boulders which will allow pedestrian access but will prevent vehicles and rubbish dumping along the walking tracks.
To reduce the effects of the TSF on landscape views from Tinworth Avenue, the final height of the embankment has been reduced to below the height of the existing pines. Hancock Victoria Plantations harvested the pines within the proposed TSF site. The Ballarat Gold Mine purchased around five hectares of pines along the perimeter of the mine to create a visual buffer for residents.
The proposed concept design prescribes no effect to the native vegetation on the eastern side along Tinworth Ave and Balmaine is considering complementary Indigenous plantings to enhance the visual screening.
Ballarat Gold Mine will continue its compliance monitoring program during the construction of TSF4 and during its operations to minimise negative effects from dust and noise on the surrounding community and environment. The endorsed work plan for TSF4 contains a risk management plan that provides details of how the mine will ensure compliance with statutory requirements for water quality, air quality, noise and other potential effects to community amenity. These plans are prepared based on predictive models prepared by independent technical experts as part of the project approval process. The process of identifying risks, modelling potential effects and assigning controls to minimise risk, provided the mine and Earth Resources Regulation with confidence that the project can be conducted in compliance with relevant statutory obligations.
There will be some changed traffic conditions during mobilisation and demobilisation of the construction fleet similar to those experienced in recent years. Occasionally, VicRoads will require the larger earthmoving equipment to turn left into Tinworth Avenue from Whitehorse Road, rather than off Geelong Road. The Ballarat Gold Mine proposes to create a turning lane off Whitehorse Rd which will eliminate the need for any heavy vehicle movements along Tinworth Avenue, this initiative forms part of the planning permit application to the City of Ballarat.
In line with the City of Ballarat curfew times, TSF4 construction activities will only occur Mon-Fri 7:00am-6:00pm to help minimal disturbance to the surrounding community. Loads will be fully escorted and will have traffic management in place.
TSF4 has been designed to allow for construction to occur in phases. Phase 1 is the initial construction of the embankment into the underlying rock foundation. Phase 2 consists of the construction of a liner beneath the facility, pipework, underdrainage and pumping systems. Construction activities will be similar to previous works at the mine and will include excavators, dozers, scrapers, compactors, haulage and water trucks.
As with previous construction projects, Ballarat Gold Mine will select and closely monitor contractors capable of complying to all the Environmental and Community policies including the site’s strict compliance limits for noise, dust, water and curfew times for the duration of the project.
Global engineering firm AECOM has been assisting the Ballarat Gold Mine with development of the TSF4 conceptual and detailed design, work plan, and site investigations. AECOM’s team of specialists ensures that the design and construction, throughout its operational life and after closure, comply with the Guideline for the Design and Management of Tailings Storage Facilities from Earth Resources Regulation (ERR 2017) and the Australian National Committee on Large Dams’ Guidelines on Tailings Dams – Planning, Design, Construction, Operation and Closure (ANCOLD 2019). The Ballarat Gold Mine has also engaged Golder Associates to provide an independent technical review the AECOM design against the guidelines.
The Ballarat Gold Mine follows ANCOLD guidelines to adopt high industry standards and practice, thus ensuring the facility is built and maintained to a safe and structurally stable standard which protects public safety, public infrastructure, and the environment.