Northampton lead tailings project

136 parcels of land within the Northampton town site have been remediated.

Northampton's mining history and NLTP Phase 1

The Northampton region has a long history of lead and copper mining. The old State Battery opened in 1954 and over the next 30 years, leftover materials from mined lead ore (called tailings) accumulated at the site (up to 75,000 tonnes). The lead tailings were progressively removed from the site by local contractors and residents and used for a range of purposes including building foundations, fill material, driveways, garden areas and bases for outbuildings.

The potential link between lead-related health effects on people and the lead tailings on Northampton properties was first identified in 1979. Since then, various investigations have been undertaken with the remediation of the Battery site and the encapsulation of lead tailings in a containment cell completed in June 2012.

In April 2013, the State Government, led by the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (the Department) commenced NLTP Phase 1 to assess the presence and distribution of lead tailings within the Northampton townsite. From 2013 to 2014, a systematic property inspection program was undertaken across participating properties. The free property inspection program was extended throughout Phase 1 by the Project Steering Committee, to ensure that as many landowners as possible had the chance to participate. This included a final call in 2016, with Phase 1 closeout works completed in November 2016. In total, 743 properties were investigated for lead tailings. This represents 98% of all land parcels in the townsite. 

It is important to note that land owners who did not take part in the NLTP will be responsible for any costs associated with any future private investigation into lead tailings on their property that might be required as a result of clearances for future subdivision, redevelopments and extensions. The associated costs can be substantial to comply with the stringent testing requirements of the Contaminated Sites Act 2003 (the CS Act).

NLTP Phase 2 Part A

Between February 2018 and February 2019, 136 parcels of land within the Northampton town site that were impacted by lead tailings were remediated as part of Phase 2 Part A of the NLTP. At most properties it was possible to remove all tailings materials. However, where tailings had been used under structures or were not easily accessible, they were safely contained in-situ. This included the use of geofabric warning barriers over and around deposits of tailings not accessible for removal. Over 17,000 cubic metres of tailings and tailings impacted soils were taken to a temporary storage facility established at the Wheal Ellen site. This is a former lead mine located on the outskirts of town that has been abandoned and is now Crown land managed by the Department. 

Communication with the affected property owners has always been the Department’s top priority. Owners of properties where tailings material have been contained have also received an Ongoing Site Management Plan (OSMP). The OSMP will inform occupants of the presence and location for the long-term management of tailings on their property. This will assist to ensure tailings remain effectively contained or else prevent unacceptable human health risk if the tailings are disturbed in the future. Owners should pass on the OSMP to future owners and occupiers of these properties and the Shire of Northampton also hold copies of all OSMPs.

Next steps: Phase 2 Part B

The Department is now preparing to undertake Phase 2 Part B of the NLTP. This phase allows for the creation of a permanent and secure facility to safely dispose of tailings removed as part of the townsite remedial works and tailings at the former Wheal Ellen site. This will be constructed at the former Wheal Ellen mine site. The design of the proposed containment cell will ensure that there is sufficient capacity to safely store all tailings material removed as part of the town site remedial works along with tailings from the former Wheal Ellen site. The containment cell has been designed to blend into the existing hillside and will be rehabilitated with native vegetation of the region.

Throughout the NLTP, the Department has worked with the Shire of Northampton, the departments of Health, Water and Environmental Regulation, and Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, and other community and industry stakeholders.  The Department will continue to work with all stakeholders throughout Phase 2 Part B. 

At this stage, the Department is in the process of engaging suitably-qualified and experienced contractors and consultants to implement Phase 2 Part B of the NLTP and gain the appropriate approvals.

Contact

The Contaminated Sites Branch can be contacted via northampton.lead@dplh.wa.gov.au.

Alternatively, you can contact the NTLP Project Manager on (08) 6552 4443

Page last reviewed 7 July 2020
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