Lead shipments from Golden Grove

18 Jan 2011 12:00 AMMedia Release

Following extensive investigation and changes to some materials handling processes, MMG Golden Grove has commenced a process of briefing the Geraldton community about the facts relating to a single exceedence of dust containing lead sulfide at the Geraldton Port in late 2010, during the loading of one of MMG Golden Grove’s export shipments.

What happened?
In November 2010, MMG Golden Grove became aware that one of four air monitors at the Geraldton Port had recorded an exceedence of the 24-hour ambient concentration limit for lead in dust emissions during the loading of a ship with High Precious Metals (HPM) concentrate from Golden Grove. HPM concentrate contains roughly 30% lead (as lead sulfide), and includes gold and silver.

At the time of loading, strong winds were blowing directly out to sea, which is also directly towards the air monitor that detected the exceedence. The dust monitors on the land side of the ship loading did not detect any lead dust exceedences.

MMG Golden Grove General Manager, Nick Mosenthal, said he and other MMG employees will be engaging with the Geraldton community this week about the relevant facts and will endeavour to address any concerns people may have regarding this incident.

“I fully understand that residents and local businesses, especially the ones located close to the port may be concerned about this issue,” said Mr Mosenthal.

“We have 600 people working at Golden Grove and 35% of them live here in Geraldton. We are part of the community and take our responsibilities very seriously.

“We want to reassure the Geraldton community that we are taking the appropriate action to resolve this matter.”

What is MMG Golden Grove doing about the issue?
Once MMG was advised about the dust results, it immediately and voluntarily deferred further shipments of its HPM concentrate. Since then, the company has been working with the Geraldton Port Authority (GPA) and the Department of Environment and Conservation to better understand the incident. In conjunction with the GPA, MMG Golden Grove has initiated a number of measures relating to ship loading procedures, including:

  • Revised loading protocols and procedures including the installation of a wind alarm to ensure loading does not take place in strong wind conditions;
  • Trialled the use of foam dust suppressants on conveyors and loading equipment.
    • GPA monitoring of the loading of copper and zinc concentrates under these revised procedures demonstrated a reduction in metal concentrate dust levels of up to 73 per cent compared to the average of previous shipments. More shipments will be tested to confirm these improvements.

      MMG Golden Grove has also committed to an independent monitoring program that will involve the placement of additional air samplers at the port and other locations in the community.

      As a further safeguard, the Government of Western Australia has also implemented a soil testing and swab program to follow on from similar monitoring carried out in 2007. MMG fully supports this approach and is working closely with the Government.

      Golden Grove employees will be visiting residents in the suburbs of Beachlands and the West End from Tuesday to Thursday this week, as well as meeting with local business and government.

      Nick Mosenthal added, “The lead sulfide component of our HPM concentrate poses much less risk than lead carbonate, the product that was shipped through Esperance and became the subject of extensive community concern.”

      “Authorities such as the WA Department of Environment and Conservation and the US EPA consider lead sulfide to have a lower toxicity than lead carbonate because it has lower solubility and is less absorbed into the body after it is swallowed.”

      “Nonetheless, we are committed to the safe handling of our concentrates at all stages of mining, production and transport.”

      MMG Golden Grove will provide further updates to the people of Geraldton, and the company has established the MMG Community Information Line on 9956 4348.  Residents may leave their details and an MMG representative will call them back as soon as practicable.

      Media enquiries
      Candice Grisbrook
      Communications Advisor
      0418 439 083