handlebar hill: on solid ground with progressive rehabilitation

As part of Glencore's commitment to the productive and sustainable management of our leases, we're advancing Stage 2 of the Handlebar Hill waste rock rehabilitation project at George Fisher Mine (GFM) built during the open cut phase of our operations.

Located at GFM within the Mount Isa Mines lease, the mining of lead-silver-zinc at Handlebar Hill open cut commenced in 2007 and operated until 2014.

Over this time, 76 million tonnes of waste rock were removed and stockpiled into two main areas, the Handlebar Hill and Magazine waste rock dumps.

Stage 1 of the rehabilitation works was completed in April 2017, involving a geochemical drilling program, mapping the waste rock dump and the partial reshaping of Handlebar Hill.

The second stage of the project is being led by key personnel at GFM in collaboration with the Health, Safety, Environment and Community team along with construction management team Progressive Resources and contractor QBC.

Jody Todd, Manager – Technical Services, GFM says the aim of the project is to reshape and provide a 1.5 metre thick cover layer of non-acid forming material and install drainage around the area.

"The scope of this project is considerable with around 160 hectares of capping at Handlebar Hill to be completed as a part of these works," says Jody.

"The rehabilitation of waste rock dumps are not simple bulk earth works projects and there's complex infiltration and landform evolution modelling undertaken to determine how the capping will fare over 20 years."

"Everybody has been working hard to deliver this project and we're progressing well."

Stage 2 of this project comes as major changes introduced by the Queensland Government in late 2018 require mining companies with site specific environmental approvals to develop and comply with progressive rehabilitation and closure plans for current operations.

Sarah Poynton, Senior Rehabilitation and Closure Advisor, says that while mining companies have always had obligations to manage their operations and minimise potential impacts on the community and the environment, these reforms take this one step further.

"Rehabilitation is an integral part of life of mine planning and essential to our social licence to operate in our community," says Sarah.

Under the new reforms, land disturbed by mining activities on the lease will be required to be rehabilitated progressively as it becomes available and is no longer needed.

"The Handlebar Hill rehabilitation project is an excellent example of the work we're doing to reduce the scale and minimise the footprint of our mining operations."

At a glance – Handlebar Hill Waste Rock Dump Rehabilitation Project

Equipment being used:

  • 4 dozers (1 x D6 , 1 x D8 and 2 x D9)
  • 6 x 40t dump trucks (including 2 Ejector type)
  • 2 x 30,000L water trucks
  • 1 x 50t excavator
  • 3 x 36t excavators
  • 1 x 140M grader
  • 1 x 20t roller
  • 1 x 4t tipper
  • 1 x 12,000l water truck
  • 2 x fuel trailers
  • 1 x 20 seater off road bus (dirty)
  • 1 x 20 seater coaster bus (clean)

Queensland Government reforms

The Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Act 2018 introduced by the Queensland Government in late 2018 requires mining companies with site specific environmental approvals to develop and comply with progressive rehabilitation and closure plans for current operations.

What is progressive rehabilitation?

Land disturbed by mining activities will be required to be rehabilitated progressively as it becomes available and no longer needed in order to minimise the risks of environmental impacts and reduce areas of disturbed land on the lease.

What is considered disturbed land?

The Queensland Government considers that disturbed land associated with mining activities should be available for rehabilitation unless it is:

  • being actively mined
  • being used for operating mining infrastructure
  • overlaying a probable or proven resource reserve identified for extraction in the approved life of mine
  • the site of built infrastructure that will be retained as a beneficial asset for post mine land use.

What will progressive rehabilitation require?

To provide certainty about the outcomes and timing of rehabilitation, a Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan (PRCP) will need to be prepared for all Glencore assets across Queensland.

These plans will include milestones to achieve progressive rehabilitation to support the transition to the specific mine site's proposed post-mining land use.

What is the process for preparing a PRCP?

We're committed to minimising environmental impacts from our operations and already undertake progressive rehabilitation and work to restore mined land as well as to reduce biodiversity impacts.

When preparing the respective PRCP for individual mining assets, Glencore's North Queensland operations will work with the Queensland Government to develop and agree on suitable post-mining land uses taking into account the nature of the lease, including landscape, community views, environmental risk and mine closure and rehabilitation strategies.

When is disturbed land deemed to be rehabilitated?

Land disturbed by mining activities are considered to be rehabilitated by the Department of Environment and Science when it can be demonstrated it is safe, stable, does not cause environmental harm, and is able to sustain the post-mining land use, which will be agreed in the PRCP.

The rehabilitation requirements will commence in late 2019 and industry will transition to the new regulatory requirements over an agreed period.