Metal Concentrates at Geraldton Port

The following metal concentrates are exported through Geraldton Port:

ProductProduct OwnerLoading Method
Copper concentrate MMG Berth 4 shiploader
Copper concentrate IGO Container
Copper concentrate Sandfire Resources Container
HPM (30-40% lead concentrate) MMG Berth 4 shiploader
Zinc concentrate MMG Berth 4 shiploader
Zinc concentrate IGO Container

Container loading of metal concentrates was introduced into Geraldton Port in 2012. This method involves half height containers lowered into the hold of the ship via shore based crane. The lid is lifted off the container rotated 180° and the contents poured into the hold.

The lid is placed back on and the container is lowered back onto the wharf. This method is environmentally clean and air quality monitoring results have been very positive.

Environmental Measures

Mid West Ports Authority (MWPA) is committed to management of environmental risks, prevention of pollution and compliance with environmental regulations. This commitment is set out in MWPA's Environmental Policy and underpins the Port's environmental management system which is certified to AS/NZS ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems.

Following is a summary of the specific measures in place at Mid West Ports for bulk product loading over the Berth 4 shiploader:

  1. Wind limits are in place and monitored by a wind speed/wind direction sensor during the entire shiploading event. Loading is suspended if wind limits are reached.
  2. Limits restricting the amount of metal concentrate that can be loaded in a 24 hour period (depending on the risk profile of the product).
  3. Product moisture is carefully maintained and monitored by the product owner to minimize the risk of dust during handling and transfer.
  4. When product is loaded onto vessels, a foaming agent is applied to the product at several key locations on the conveyor system to further mitigate potential dust.
  5. The berth and ship are cleaned continually during loading to reduce dust.
  6. Loading events are supervised on a 24 hour basis by MWPA's Operations Supervisor.
  7. Staff involved in loading metal concentrates hold formal consultation meetings during loading operations and cooperate to address any concerns or issues that emerge.
  8. Dust is monitored by MWPA at four air quality monitoring stations during and after shiploading events. Results are analysed at a NATA approved laboratory.
  9. All MWPA air quality monitoring results are reported to the Department of Environment Regulation in accordance with Environmental Licence Conditions.
  10. MWPA is certified to ISO9001 Quality Management Systems and to ISO14001 Environmental Management Systems.

2010 - Geraldton Port Lead Exceedance

In 2009 a new Department of Environment Regulation (DEF) (formally the Department of Environment and Conservation) Environmental Licence was issued to MWPA (formally the Geraldton Port Authority) which included for the first time an air quality limit for lead of 0.5µg/m3 in a 24 hour period (ie 0.0000005 grams) and a requirement to install alternate (HiVol) dust monitoring equipment at four air quality monitoring stations at the Port's boundary. Installation of the new dust monitoring equipment was completed mid 2010.

The first shipment of HPM (lead bearing ore) from the Geraldton Port to be subjected to the new monitoring system occurred in October 2010. This product comprises 30-40 per cent lead sulphide. The cargo approximated about 5,000 tonnes. The wind was blowing off shore at the time of loading. During this shipment one of the HiVol monitors (representing the northern boundary of the port), detected lead at 4.2µg/m3. Monitors on the land side of the port did not detect elevated levels.

When advised of the exceedence by MWPA, MMG voluntarily deferred further shipments and the export of lead concentrate was subsequently suspended by the Minister for Transport in December 2010 as a precautionary measure pending a community sampling program by Department of Health (DoH) and a review of operational practices. Results of the sampling program were released in 2011 and confirmed no community health risk.

A formal review of the risks associated with metal concentrates, in particular HPM was conducted by MWPA in September 2011 in conjunction with MMG, IGO and operators. The intent of the risk assessment was to identify all potential events that could contribute to an elevated metal reading and ensure that controls and contingency plans are adequate to mitigate these.

In addition MMG took the initiative of commissioning Adjunct Professor Dr Roger Drew of Toxikos Toxicology to conduct an independent scientific based investigation into the community health risks of lead and the suitability of the existing lead licence limit criteria. Dr Drew is a recognised national and international expert in toxicology and health based risk assessments. The work included a review of international literature on lead health effects.

In considering the findings and recommendation of Professor Drew, MWPA lodged a submission to DER to have the lead emission criteria reviewed. DER assessed the submission and after seeking advice from the DoH, they amended the MWPA's Environmental Licence on 8 September 2011 to the emission criteria shown in Table 1.

EmissionCriteriaAveraging Period
Lead as TSP 0.5 µg/m3 limit 3 month rolling average
Lead as PM10 2 µg/m3 target 24 hour average for Connell Road monitor only
Lead as PM10 0.5 µg/m3 target 24 hour average for Lemmon Road, Port Way and Berth 1 monitors

Table 1 - Amended Environmental Licence Lead Emissions Criteria

It is important to note that a ‘limit' and a ‘target' are treated differently by DER. A limit must never be exceeded and is considered a direct breach of the Environmental Licence condition and accordingly a breach of the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

A target, whilst it should not be exceeded, is not considered a breach of the environmental licence, although an investigation into the circumstances, and implementation of corrective and preventative action, are required to ensure it does not routinely occur.

Following results of health testing and improvements to operations, infrastructure and monitoring, the Minister for Transport approved resumption of bulk loading of HPM (announced in a media release on 3 October 2011) subject to results from two trial shipments being acceptable and ongoing monitoring and performance outcomes acceptable to MWPA.

The first trial shipment of HPM occurred in November 2011. Results from the four air quality monitoring stations did not return any exceedances of MWPA's Environmental Licence air quality targets or limits. A second trial shipment occurred in December 2011 and again no exceedances of air quality targets or limits occurred.

MWPA has approved further shipments of HPM subject to air quality monitoring results continuing to remain acceptable.

Lead - How is Geraldton different to Esperance?

HPM from the MMG Golden Grove Mine at Yalgoo is a concentrate of silver, lead sulphide and gold. This product differs from the Magellan lead carbonate which contaminated Esperance. The concentration of lead in the Magellan (Esperance) product is significantly higher than the MMG (Geraldton) product and is in a form much more soluble than the HPM exported through Geraldton which is benign in comparison. Magellan lead was stockpiled at the Esperance port, whereas the relatively small volume of HPM exported through Geraldton is only delivered to port just in time for shipping.

2011 - Geraldton Community Survey for Metal Concentrates

Following the October 2010 exceedance, a survey was conducted to assess if there had been any significant change in the level of lead and other metal concentrates within the community.

The survey was conducted jointly by the DoH, the DER Pollution Response Unit and Department of Transport (DOT) officers.

The City of Geraldton assisted by seeking permission from home owners and schools for samples to be taken from their premises.

A report on the findings was prepared by DoH:

Environmental Sampling Report Geraldton, Western Australia

Attachment A - Sampling and Analysis Plan Geraldton

Attachment B - Laboratory Results

In summary the survey outcomes were:

  • 31 community soil samples taken from 23 locations, none were above the Health Investigational Levels (HILs).
  • 60 rainwater tank samples were taken from 27 domestic tanks, only one sample exceeded the Australian Drinking Water Guideline for lead and one sample for zinc – the Port has been discounted as a source in both situations.
  • 21 surface dust samples were taken from 21 locations, there was no evidence of accumulation over time.
  • 11 soil samples were taken from 11 locations within the Geraldton port operational area. Copper and zinc results were assessed against the HIL for commercial industrial sites while lead results were assessed against the HIL for residential sites. Exceedances for copper, lead and zinc were found in the shiploading areas. No exceedances were found in the port perimeter in contrast to the 2007 survey when 3 samples were above the guideline level.
  • Heavy metals detected in the community were well below respective health guidelines and do not pose a health risk to the residents.
  • The levels of lead at the Port boundary were under the reference level in 2011 compared with 2007 indicating improved hygiene practices at the port.

2012-13 Community Air Quality Monitoring Program

An additional air quality monitoring program commenced in March 2012 as part of a broader monitoring program designed to collect information and data on the air quality and particulate dust in the atmosphere within the Geraldton area, specifically in relation to potential impacts related to the Geraldton Port's operations. The program was a partnership arrangement between MMG and MWPA.

The four monitoring stations were installed across various locations within Geraldton; three to represent potential community exposure and one control site as shown on the map below.

Air Monitoring Sites

Monthly results are provided in the links below. Results from the 12 month program confirmed there are no health risks to the community from loading metal concentrates at Geraldton Port.

February 2013 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

January 2013 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

December 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

November 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

October 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

September 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

August 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

July 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

June 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

May 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

April 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

March 2012 Community Air Quality Monitoring Results

A final report on the 12 month air quality monitoring program shows that the average ambient air concentrate of lead, copper and zinc was very low at all community monitoring sites indicating there is no risk to the community from loading of metal concentrates containing lead, copper or zinc at Geraldton Port. The 12 month program has now completed.

Questions

Any questions relating to the environmental aspect of the port operations can be directed to the Port's Environmental Officer, Russell Stevens on russell.stevens@midwestports.com.au or (08) 9964 0534.