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No evidence of harm to human health from heavy metals in Rosebery

MMG and the Tasmanian Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) held a community meeting in Rosebery today to discuss the conclusions from MMG’s community testing and environmental sampling program. The results of the program, which have been considered by independent experts, found no evidence of harm to human health from the presence of heavy metals in Rosebery. These findings support previous expert advice to DHHS on this issue.

MMG commenced a community testing and environmental sampling program in December 2009 following talk of heavy metals in the town and being concerned as to the impact this could have on Rosebery and its residents.

Since then, MMG has completed one of the largest community environmental testing programs undertaken in Australia, with 2,000 soil, dust and water samples and more than 420 bio-monitoring tests; totalling over 35,000 data points.

“MMG has a long term view of Rosebery. The mine has operated here for 75 years and we intend to be here for many decades to come,” said MMG Rosebery General Manager Mr John Lamb.

“That’s why, over the past eight months, MMG has made such a significant investment, of both people and financial resources, to establish the facts and provide clarity and certainty for the community.”

“We would like to thank the community of Rosebery for their patience, participation and support of this program over the past eight months,” he said.

Final results and conclusions from MMG’s program

  • Bio-monitoring tests showed low levels of lead in the results of MMG Rosebery employees and community members. Blood lead levels in Rosebery children are within the same range as found in other non-mining areas of Australia. There were no children’s’ blood lead levels above 10 µg/dL – the target level recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In fact, no child in our program had a blood lead level which exceeded 5 µg/dL. These bio-monitoring results have been cross-referenced against residential property soil results and found no correlation between the levels.
  • Results from the 2,000 soil, dust and water samples collected and analysed show only one suburb in Rosebery has an average lead level marginally above the Health Investigation Level for residential land. While there are some elevated soil lead levels in this and other suburbs, they are manageable with good health and hygiene practices.
  • The dust data showed no correlation between proximity to the mine and dust in living spaces and there were no obvious radial patterns (ie dust emanating from the mine). Anecdotal commentary from residents living near the site’s filter plant noted that the plant is creating some dust. MMG has commenced work on an equipment upgrade specifically to address this issue and is working with the EPA on its air monitoring regime. Importantly, the bio-monitoring results in this area were no different to anywhere else in town.
    • “Rosebery is a highly mineralised area and so its soils have naturally elevated metals – that’s why the mine is here,” said Mr Lamb.

      Rosebery has a long history of using landfill in construction, some local and some imported from other parts of the West Coast which also contain some metals.

      The distribution of soil showing elevated levels of heavy metals is patchy, with no clear pattern of distribution being evident. In many cases these localised concentrations aligned with feedback from residents on the historical use and development of properties. Further, our bio-monitoring results provide no evidence of a relationship between elevated levels on any property and harm to human health.

      MMG’s continuing commitment

      “We will not stop work on this issue here,” said Mr Lamb.

      “We will provide individual feedback to the 25 properties on which we undertook further testing and others we have promised to follow-up. We will work with the EPA on our air monitoring regime. We will continue to offer blood tests free of charge to any community member who wants to check blood lead levels for them or their family members.”

      “Most importantly, we will work with the DHHS and West Coast Council to ensure that residents know what precautions to take living in a mining town and we will continuously maintain awareness of this issue,” he said.

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