Calcine sands management - Stawell historic areas
Parks Victoria; the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; and Northern Grampians Shire Council are working together to better understand the potential extent of calcine sands at the Moonlight-cum-Magdala and Oriental Mine Company Historic Areas.
In 2020, calcine sands were identified at the Moonlight-cum-Magdala and Oriental Mine Company Historic Areas.
Calcine sands, a form of mine tailings that are identifiable by their red or purple colour, were left behind following the extraction of gold from rocks during historic gold mining activity more than 100 years ago. Calcine sands may contain heavy metals, such as arsenic, that may be harmful to humans if ingested.
To restrict public access and potential disturbance of the affected areas, barriers and signage were installed and mulch applied over the sands.
In-line with directions by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, permanent fencing is being installed at the two historic areas, replacing the temporary barriers. Consultants are also undertaking further sampling to determine whether calcine sands are present elsewhere and, if so, what remediation may be required.
A decision on potential remediation options available is expected to be made by the end of 2021.
In the meantime, the public is advised to observe signage, stay out of fenced-off areas, and not swim or fish in the Moonie Tailings dams.
What is happening at these historic areas?
Calcine sands were identified last year at the Moonlight-cum-Magdala and Oriental Mine Company Historic Areas, and initial steps taken to treat the affected areas. The next stage in the management of calcine sands is now underway. This includes permanent fencing and further sampling.
Why is more sampling required?
Further sampling will determine whether calcine sands are present elsewhere, and what remediation may be required.
Why is additional fencing required?
Permanent fencing will provide better demarcation of the affected areas, and limit the potential for disturbance of calcine sands.
Are you expecting more calcine sands to be identified?
While we have not seen the tell-tale purple-red colours of calcine sands elsewhere, there may be non-visible traces below the surface. Given the nature of the sands, they can be spread by wind and disturbance of the soil, such as if vehicles drives through an affected area.
What’s the long-term plan for managing these areas?
That will be determined, in part, by the report that will be produced by specialist contractors after they complete sampling across the historic areas. The EPA, as environmental regulator, will consider the report and use it to inform the next set of actions required of Parks Victoria and any other relevant landholders.
Is there a risk to the community/nearby residents?
Calcine sands may contain heavy metals, such as arsenic, that may be harmful to humans if ingested. Further information on living with mine tailings can be found in the EPA publication, “Are you living in an area with mine tailings?” https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1706
The use of mulch last year appears to have been effective in covering and suppressing movement of the known calcine sands.
- Media release: Parks Victoria taking action over potential calcine sands
- Media release: Calcine sands management continues in Stawell