The historic, now-closed Lake George Mine is at Captains Flat, approximately 50 kilometers south east of the Australian capital of Canberra in New South Wales (NSW).
The mine operated over several decades starting in the late 1880s and closing in the 1960s, producing lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold.
Extensive rehabilitation works have been carried out since the mine closed to manage erosion, improve safety and control tailings pollution from the site.
Historic mining operations in NSW such as Lake George Mine were not subject to the stringent rehabilitation regulatory requirements that are in force today.
There was no word from the government as to whether any of the families or companies whose current wealth derived from the mine would assist with the $33 million cleanup, which means taxpayers will likely foot the entire bill (a dynamic known as corporate socialism).
Member for Monaro Steve Whan said, “The further remediation of the Captains Flat mine surrounds reflects the fact that our knowledge of the dangers of this type of site continues to get better. This is a big job and I’m pleased the Government continues to work to ensure community health.”
“I am also very conscious of the fact that private landowners in Captains Flat also face considerable uncertainty and potentially high costs as a result of the Government identifying issues on town blocks. I have not forgotten those people,” he continued.
Under contemporary mining regulations, mine operators are required to submit and implement comprehensive rehabilitation plans, lodge security bonds, and progressively remediate sites to limit poor environmental and safety outcomes.
The NSW Resources regulator is responsible for ensuring compliance with rehabilitation plans approved through the planning process.
While it was operative, Lake George Mine was one of the largest base metal mines in NSW. It produced lead, zinc, copper, pyrite, silver and gold and spanned approximately 100 hectares of legacy mine workings, extending underground to a depth of over 600 meters.
Up to $33 million of remediation work at the Lake George Mine will be carried out under the NSW Government’s Legacy Mine Program. The fund includes a total of $107.7 million for high risk historic and abandoned mine sites.
During the work period, the site’s historic mining structures will be preserved to maintain the mining history of the site.
Work at Lake George Mine will commence on 20 November 2023 and be carried out until mid-2026.
Minister for Natural Resources Courtney Houssos said, “The Minns Labor Government is committed to safeguarding the environment and protecting local communities, including through the Legacy Mines Program. Mining continues to drive prosperity in NSW.”
“Remediating historic legacy mines is an important way that the NSW Government can support local economies and ensure regional communities are great places to live and visit. By addressing the legacy of historical mining practices, we are ensuring a better and safer future for our communities,” she added.
Current and ongoing issues include seepage of acid mine drainage (AMD) and heavy metal contaminants spreading from the site, with zinc being the primary contaminant of concern.
Lake George Mine covers about 100 hectares with the main mine infrastructure extending underground to a depth of 619 meters. Numerous shafts and adits were present at the surface, and structures for ore storage, processing, loading and transport remain at the site.
There are 2 large mine tailings dump areas (northern and southern).
Further remediation work will commence on Monday 20 November 2023 to improve safety and environmental outcomes.
The project involves treating historic mine waste and encapsulating it in a purpose-built containment cell before revegetating the site. Areas currently without vegetation will also be treated to promote vegetation growth.
Work will be carried out in stages, with strict monitoring and controls in place to ensure public safety and minimise impact on the environment.
Throughout the work, the Lake George Mine site will be closed to the public for safety reasons and fencing will be put in place in key areas.
Remediation work is expected to be complete mid-2026, weather permitting.