The Batu Hijau copper/gold mine, operated by PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara, is located in the south-western part of Sumbawa Island, Indonesia, and is situated ~10 km from the south coast at an altitude of ~450 m above sea level. The mine became fully operational by year 2000 and processes approximately 120 000 t of ore per day that contain an average of 0.53 per cent copper and 0.4 per tonne (g/t) gold. Tailings management at the mine includes a deep-sea tailings placement (DSTP) system that discharges tailings through a pipeline via an outfall located at a depth of 125 m at the head of the submarine Senunu Canyon (Figure 1).
The environmental impact assessment undertaken prior to approval of the DSTP evaluated both on-land tailings storage facility (TSF) and DSTP options for tailings management. Negative attributes of the on-land TSF included removal of approximately 2300 ha of forest/agricultural land, the potential relocation of >2000 people from their communities, the high average annual rainfall (>2500 mm) and potential for earthquakes presenting challenges for water management and creating a long-term risk of failure. The final choice and Indonesian Government’s approval of DSTP was also influenced by the close proximity of the deep submarine canyon to the mine. The Batu Hijau mine is one of the larger examples of DSTP in the world and deposits tailings at the greatest depth. The depth of the main canyon increases to >2000 m within 20 km of the coast, and to >3000 m approximately 50 km from the coast.
The DTSP at Batu Hijau must comply with an environment management plan (EMP) and environment monitoring plan of permit stipulation that approved its commencement in 2000; updated in 2010 and 2015. The environmental management objectives were to avoid impacts to highly productive components of the ecosystem such as coral reefs, mangroves, surface waters and fisheries, and confinement of impacts to areas of low biological productivity. In the vicinity of the DSTP outfall and within the Senunu Canyon, the management plan predicted significant adverse impacts from the DSTP on the marine ecosystem in the form of:
- reduction in sea water quality due to elevated
turbidity and dissolved copper concentrations
- burial of benthic organisms
- a reduced habitat for demersal fish.
Recovery of the pelagic and benthic ecosystem to preoperating conditions was predicted to occur within the first two years after operations cease. The CSIRO has performed due diligence studies to independently verify compliance with permits and evaluate new monitoring objectives (Apte et al, 2004; Simpson et al, 2010; Angel et al, 2015), and has performed assessments of environmental monitoring data on the tailings footprint and ore stockpile processing against the above environmental objectives (Simpson and Angel, 2015).
Angel, B M, Simpson, S L and Waworuntu, J, 2016. Long-term monitoring and targeted assessments to improve management of mine wastes – the Batu Hijau project, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2016 Conference, pp 81–84 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).