Australian lead producer ordered to stop mining - again
In March 2007, the Magellan mine in Western Australia was ordered to halt all exports of "white lead" (lead carbonate) after containers blew open at the Western Australian port of Esperance.
The emissions directly poisoned seven children, "showered" the area with lead and nickel dust, and killed thousands of birds. See: Port lead disaster gets cosmetic response
In late 2009, the mine's owner, Ivernia, was allowed to resume shipments of the toxic material from its stockpiles and, in February 2010, to re-open the mine itself.
Now, less than a year later, a similar incident has occurred at the port.
As a result, Ivernia's share price plunged 14 percent; and once again it was ordered to temporarily shut down its mining and processing facilities.
Meanwhile, the state's Opposition has called for a complete ban on the transport of powdered lead in Western Australia.
Ivernia Told to Halt Australia Lead Shipments After Metal Detected in Air
3 January 2011
Ivernia Inc. said it received a "stop order" from the Western Australia government related to the transport of lead concentrate from its Magellan mine.
The order came after an independent inspector found airborne lead from the mine within "a small number" of shipping containers, the Toronto-based company said in a statement dated Dec. 31 posted on its website. It will restart shipments once the issue is resolved, it said.
"All airborne levels in the sealed containers were consistently below accepted occupational health levels established by the National Occupational Safety and Health Commission," it said.
Ivernia is the only owner of the Magellan mine, with output expected to reach full capacity of 85,000 metric tons this year, the company said on the website. That would account for 2 percent of annual global lead-mine output, it said. The company sells lead to China and other countries, it said.
The company halted the mine in March 2007 after it was banned from exporting through Esperance in Western Australia when lead dust was blamed for killing birds and infecting residents' blood. The mine restarted early last year, it said.
Lead for delivery in three months advanced 4.9 percent last year to $2,550 a ton on the London Metal Exchange.
Minister under fire over Fremantle lead scare
3 January 2011
The State Opposition says the Government should have revealed the lead contamination scare at Fremantle earlier.
The State Opposition is demanding Environment Minister Bill Marmion explain why he did not act sooner in response to a possible lead contamination at Fremantle Port.
The company involved, Magellan Metals, was ordered by the Government to stop shipments from the port on December 31 when traces of the heavy metal were discovered in containers used to transport the lead to port.
The Government has confirmed it was notified by the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority eight days earlier.
In 2007 Magellan was banned from exporting lead from Esperance after parts of the town - and some of its residents - were contaminated.
Opposition spokeswoman Sally Talbot says it is unacceptable that Mr Marmion went on annual leave after he was told of the possible contamination at Fremantle.
"I want to know where Bill Marmion is? Why isn't he sitting at his desk, why isn't he as worried about this as the people in the 22 suburbs who live along the transport route for the lead?" Ms Talbot said.
"We know now that this system is a sham. It's a system that can't be trusted and now it looks as if we have a Minister who can't be trusted as well."
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt says the community has lost confidence in the Government since it failed to notify residents as soon as it found out about a incident.
Mr Pettitt says the Government needs to strengthen its procedures.
"It's clear the current conditions haven't worked and it's clear the current monitoring regime isn't working either," Mr Pettitt said.
"I think for the people of Fremantle to have confidence that lead is being exported safely through the port, we need stronger conditions and stronger monitoring going forward."
WA Labor wants ban on powdered lead exports
2 January 2011
The Western Australian Opposition has called for a complete ban on the transport of powdered lead in the state, after two separate incidents sparked contamination fears.
The Government has ordered mining company Magellan Metals to stop exporting lead through Fremantle because of concerns strict environmental restrictions may have been breached.
The conditions include that the lead must be transported inside double bags within sealed containers.
The metal was discovered inside the containers but outside of the bags on Friday.
Last week, another company had its lead shipments stopped from Geraldton when testing found lead levels eight times higher than allowed.
Opposition environment spokeswoman Sally Talbot is calling for the ban and says the Government has neglected its duties.
"Two separate regulatory failures on this Government's watch," she said.
Acting Environment Minister Peter Collier says the halt order was issued to check whether the conditions have been breached, but he says there is no risk to public health.
"There is no risk whatsoever to the community," he said.
"They are very low levels of lead carbonate contained within the containers."
Mr Collier says Magellan will now prepare a report which will be independently audited and reviewed by the Environmental Protection Authority.
Magellan spokesman John Yeates says the levels detected in the latest incident are lower than the accepted standards.
"The level in containers is extremely low by national health standards," he said.
"There is absolutely no risk, health risk because we have not picked up any Magellan lead outside containers anywhere along the transport route."
Magellan says airborne lead no danger to public
4 January 2011
The exporting of lead by Magellan Metals out of Fremantle port has been suspended.
The company told to stop lead exports from the West Australian port of Fremantle says it is assessing the implications of the order and the impact on its mining operations.
The Environmental Protection Authority is investigating after Magellan Metals admitted in mid-December that airborne lead was detected outside its double-lined bags.
The EPA says Magellan may have been breaching its environmental conditions for more than a year.
The company says monitoring shows there is no risk to the public from the lead carbonate found inside the shipping containers.
It had previously caused contamination in Esperance four years ago when lead carbonate concentrate killed thousands of birds.
The company has since been transporting lead in sealed bags and containers from its Wiluna mine by train to Fremantle.
Magellan says there is no evidence that any of the sealed bags have been damaged during loading or transport.
It says extensive sampling along the transport route from Wiluna to Fremantle has shown no trace of lead from the Magellan mine since transport operations began in 2009.
The company says it takes the matter very seriously and is keen to meet the EPA as soon as possible to resolve the problem.
The Opposition says the Government's regulatory and reporting system has failed.
Transport Minister Troy Buswell concedes reporting between Magellan, the EPA and the Government needs to be reviewed.
"We need to be doing better. In the case of Fremantle specifically, I think it would be fair to say that we need to have a look at the way information flows from Magellan to the EPA, the way information flows from the EPA to other government agencies and from the EPA up to the executive government," he said.
Earlier, Environment Minister Bill Marmion explained why he did not act after being told of Magellan's possible lead leakage on Christmas Eve.
"I got verbal advice on the 24th that there may be a breach," he said.
Mr Marmion has defended his decision to continue with his holiday plans.
"It's still in the state - two hours away. I had holidays planned and that's how it worked out," he said.
Magellan told the EPA about the airborne lead on December 15.
Mr Marmion says he needed more information.
"If I want [to stop the transport], I need to have formal advice that there had been a breach," he said.
"In fact, EPA have to provide me with the advice if they are confident there had been a breach.
"EPA did not advise me on the 24th that there had been a breach. On December 31 they advised me there had been a breach and I acted on it immediately."
EPA chairman Paul Vogel has backed the minister, saying there was not enough evidence to act on Christmas Eve.
The Opposition said there was no reason why Mr Marmion could not have acted earlier to stop the lead transportation.
"The only thing that would've been stopping him is his own misunderstanding about what it means to take ministerial responsibility," environment spokeswoman Sally Talbot said.
"I would ask the Minister to give us a clear answer to the question: Who's in charge here?"
"Colin Barnett, once again, has given us a weak environmental minister.
"Magellan is clearly an arrogant company (which) thinks it can flout these rules."
Ivernia declares force majeure declared on Magellan lead mine
By Andrea Hotter
Dow Jones Newswires
6 January 2011
IVERNIA has declared force majeure on deliveries of lead to customers of its Magellan lead mine in Western Australia.
The company has also temporarily shutdown mining and processing operations.
Shipments of lead concentrate were halted following a December 31 notice from Western Australia's Office of Environmental Protection Authority due to environmental concerns.
"Due to the current uncertainty surrounding the timeline to recommence shipments, the company is commencing a temporary shutdown of mining and processing operations," Ivernia said.
"Magellan Metals has also commenced the process of sending notices of force majeure to its suppliers, where appropriate."
The temporary shutdown of mining and processing will be re-evaluated on a weekly basis or at more frequent intervals, as required.
Ivernia was recently given a January 17 deadline to deliver certain information to Western Australia's environmental authorities as it works to resume shipments from Magellan.
A January 3 order from the authorities requires its Magellan Metals subsidiary to work with the government to design an investigation into the source and extent of airborne lead identified within a small number of sealed containers. It also requires Magellan to initiate a review of procedures for packaging and transport.
This isn't the first time Magellan has been forced to suspend shipments due to environmental issues. The mine, located near Wiluna in Western Australia, restarted operations in early 2010 after environmental issues in the Esperance port area caused their suspension in early 2007.
When target production levels are achieved the mine is expected to be a significant pure lead producer, accounting for about 2 per cent of annual global lead mine production.
The company noted that all airborne lead levels in the sealed containers were nonetheless consistently below accepted occupational health levels established by the Australian National Occupational Safety and Health Commission.
There have been no indications of the presence of lead from soil, air and water samples along the mine's road and rail route as well as within the port of Fremantle, since transport operations started in September 2009.
Ivernia Suspends Output at Magellan Lead Mine After Scare Halts Transport
By Jason Scott
5 January 2011
Ivernia Inc., which mines lead in Australia, suspended operations at its Magellan project after a government order forced it to halt shipments.
"Due to the current uncertainty surrounding the timeline to recommence shipments, the company is commencing a temporary shutdown of mining and processing operations," Ivernia said in a statement yesterday. The company's Magellan Metals unit has started sending notices of force majeure to suppliers, it said. The temporary shutdown of mining and processing will be re- evaluated on a weekly basis, it said.
The Western Australian state government ordered the company to halt shipments from Fremantle port after an independent inspector found airborne lead from the mine within shipping containers, Ivernia said Dec. 31.
Output from Magellan is expected to reach full capacity of 85,000 metric tons this year, the company said on its website. That would account for 2 percent of annual global lead-mine output, it said. The company sells lead to China and other countries, it said.
Ivernia has plunged 14 percent in its last two trading days and closed at 34.5 Canadian cents yesterday in Toronto.
The Magellen mine restarted early last year after it was banned from exporting lead through Esperance in Western Australia in March 2007 when lead dust was blamed for killing birds and infecting residents' blood.