MMG provides feedback on environmental sampling program

04 Mar 2010 12:00 AMMedia Release

In December 2009 MMG committed to providing the Rosebery community with feedback on the environmental sampling program it initiated in response to ongoing concerns around heavy metals in the Rosebery environment. Today, MMG provided the Rosebery community with a progress report on work to date, focusing on the soil sampling undertaken as part of the program.

MMG Rosebery General Manager John Lamb said that, generally, the results from the program were consistent with previous work undertaken in 2008-09 by the EPA which led to the conclusion there was no health risk in Rosebery.

“While we are on track, and pleased to provide feedback on the soil sampling component of the program today, there is a lot more work to be done before we can speak with certainty about the full picture of what is in the Rosebery environment,” he said.

Mr Lamb and a technical expert from GHD, the independent environmental consultant which undertook the sampling, took the community through an overview of the results for the Rosebery township. For privacy reasons, individual results were not discussed at the meeting.  However, MMG has written to each resident who participated in the process and will be speaking with each of them personally in the coming days to organise a time to discuss results for their property.

“The soil sampling data shows that a number of the samples triggered investigation limits and, therefore, warranted further study. These limits are a recognised trigger point at which further investigation should be carried out and are not an indication that health impacts are likely,” he said.

The sample results indicate that there is significant variability between and within properties and may suggest that historical land fill is a potential primary influence.

While the soil data showed some trends apparent across town, they were limited and did not correlate to proximity to the mine or its operations.  This has suggested that the age of properties may also have some bearing on the results and will need to be pursued in additional work.

Preliminary analysis of the soil suggests the key metals of interest are not easily absorbed into the body. This is a very positive result from the perspective of health investigation levels, however, further work is necessary to confirm this preliminary analysis.

“Rosebery is located in a highly mineralised area, that’s why the mine is here, so we always expected to see some levels of metals in the soil. This, along with a number of other historical factors, such as the use of waste rock from mining operations in the region as fill on properties, can potentially impact on results.

“We are not jumping to any conclusions and what these results have shown us is that more work needs to be done to better understand what is in the Rosebery environment and what its origins are,” Mr Lamb said. 

MMG Rosebery has for many years tested extensively around the Rosebery township as part of its environmental licensing arrangements and its ongoing commitment to community health. Mr Lamb also presented an overview of historical monitoring and testing data that is being reviewed as part of this current program. This includes historical:

  • community blood lead testing results
  • occupational exposure testing on employees 
  • dust monitoring at 29 sites around town
  • water monitoring as part of our EPA licencing arrangements
  • previous soil sampling campaigns
  • the current bio-monitoring program of all employees and contractors as well any Rosebery-based family members who volunteer.
    • “MMG has a long history of community awareness building around the issue of lead and has for many years been supporting community testing programs as well as occupational testing regimes for its workforce.

      “We take comfort from the fact that we have not found any evidence from past blood lead sampling in Rosebery that would indicate that lead from our environment is adversely impacting the health of our community,” he said.
      Information collected is being provided to the Rosebery Community Reference Group on Environmental Health Risk, which comprises the Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, Work Standards Tasmania, the AWU, MMG, a number of technical experts, and community representatives.

      “It is this Group which is tasked with coordinating the investigation into environmental health risk in Rosebery and we will be working very closely with them to progress this issue,” Mr Lamb said.

      MMG aims to provide further feedback on water and dust sampling also being undertaken as part of the program in the coming months. We expect this to be in April and May/June respectively.

      Media enquiries:
      Sally Cox
      Communications Manager
      T 61 3 9288 0850 / 61 417 144 524