Our approach to environmental management is based on understanding and minimising the potential impacts of our operations on the environment, using resources efficiently and leaving positive closure outcomes for the land that we disturb.

Iluka’s approach is underpinned by our HSEC management system which guides us in demonstrating leading practice through all business activities from exploration, planning, research and project development, through to operation, rehabilitation and closure. We pursue leading practice in environmental management as outlined in our HSEC Policy.

Activities are conducted such that adverse impacts on existing and potential environmental values, including ecosystem function, abundance, diversity, distribution, integrity and productivity are understood and minimised. The individual environmental requirements of each site are considered and site specific procedures and work instructions are developed in compliance with our HSEC management system.

Iluka recognises that compliance with legislative requirements is a minimum standard that should be achieved while performing at, or beyond, these requirements. We have a team of multi-disciplinary technical experts in the areas of environmental management including rehabilitation practices.

For Sierra Rutile, 2017 was treated as a baseline year to understand the extent of its activities on the environment.

Iluka owns, leases or manages a number of operational, rehabilitation and future project sites that contain areas of high biodiversity value. Our approach is aimed at the protection and enhancement of biodiversity values and to prevent adverse impacts from occurring, or if this is not possible, to limit their significance to an acceptable level.

A hierarchy of controls – avoidance, minimisation, restoration, biodiversity offsets or other conservation actions – is followed. Consideration of biodiversity values is conducted within each of the planning, operational and rehabilitation phases. At this level, practical and quantifiable outcomes can be achieved in protecting and enhancing biodiversity at our sites.

The protection and enhancement of biodiversity is formalised in a range of management measures. In the planning phase these include:

  • pre-mine or baseline surveys of both flora and fauna by qualified experts;
  • commissioning of vegetation mapping of undisturbed native vegetation areas;
  • assessment of groundwater extraction on groundwater dependent ecosystems;
  • assessment of surface water extraction and discharge on dependent ecosystems;
  • determination of the direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity; and
  • identification of environmental offsets to mitigate potential residual impacts on biodiversity.

Operational sites have a number of management plans that include mitigation measures to protect and address specific biodiversity aspects such as fauna, native vegetation, pest/weed species, plant disease and soil management. The plans include measures to control access to areas of importance for biodiversity and protected areas, controls for vegetation and/or fauna removal prior to disturbance, and monitoring of specific fauna and flora. Collection of seed can occur prior to mining and these are stored and/or treated for later use during rehabilitation. Similarly, native vegetation on the mine path can be removed prior to mining and stored separately for later use as mulch for soil stabilisation or rehabilitation.

We implement leading practice in protecting and enhancing biodiversity through undertaking scientific research through partnerships with research institutions:

Key partnerships

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, and Iluka have collaborated for over 25 years to measure rehabilitation outcomes by comparing post-mining crop yields with crop yields in adjacent undisturbed farmlands and average crop yields in the surrounding region.  Key focus areas for 2018 would include the determination of the net effects of tillage and soil reconstruction practices on post-mining soil productivity and associated physical and chemical properties and the monitoring of soil reconstruction, materials handling and placement activities.

The University of Western Australia

Iluka formed a partnership with The University of Western Australia in March 2013 to research the restoration of areas of kwongan heathland at Eneabba in the Mid West of Western Australia. The partnership involves sponsorship of the Chair in Vegetation Science and Biogeography with a five-year term that ended in December 2017.

University of Adelaide

Iluka has a strong history of supporting ecological research at Jacinth-Ambrosia in South Australia, through its partnership with the University of Adelaide. The research programs and partnerships complement the onsite rehabilitation activities and contribute to the broader understanding of revegetation in saline and arid environments.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide visited the J-A mine in July 2017, to begin work on a project that will investigate the seeding triggers of the local species Maireana sedifolia (pearl bluebush). Over the next two years the researchers, in collaboration with the J-A rehabilitation team, will be investigating methods for inducing regular seeding events in the pearl bluebush which is a dominant chenopod in the local vegetation association. 

Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority

Iluka supports research by the Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority (Kings Park Science Directorate) into the ecology and restoration of known vegetation post mining in Western Australia.

Our nationally accredited Eneabba nursery (Nursery Industry Accreditation Scheme Australia) currently does not produce any plants itself and is exclusively used as a holding nursery during the planting season (around six weeks during mid-winter). Rehabilitation specialists in the Mid West collect and send seed, cuttings and plant materials to three nurseries in the Mid West and Perth where they have been developing techniques for the successful propagation of 30 recalcitrant and 15 difficult-to-grow species. 

Iluka’s ongoing support of research science that protects rare and endangered species that occur on our tenements continued in 2017. Our Principle Rehabilitation Specialist, Mark Dobrowolski, co-authored a paper on the “Isolation and Characterisation of Microsatellite Primers for the Critically Endangered Shrub Styphelia longissimi (Ericaceae)”. Additionally we also funded a taxonomic project that enabled the Western Australia Herbarium to better describe this endangered species along with four other species in the Eneabba region.

Land management and rehabilitation are a major focus for Iluka and constitute a significant and continuous part of our activities. Rehabilitation efforts are aligned with leading practice and undertaken in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Closure planning begins before mining starts and where practicable, rehabilitation occurs progressively with ongoing mining activity. Closure documentation is developed in the planning phase of a project and reviewed and refined as the operations move through the project life cycle. Closure risk assessments are reviewed and updated prior to a change in the project life cycle (for example, from the cessation of operations to commencement of final rehabilitation earthworks), or when operational risks are identified that may have an impact on closure. Closure provisioning is reviewed annually and covers the potential risk of unplanned closure. Research projects are undertaken to support rehabilitation activities and address knowledge gaps. Return of land to the final land use and relinquishment of obligations and tenure is the final step in the closure process.

In 2017 a performance target was set for all sites to have closure plans in accordance with the internal standard and legislative requirements by the end of 2018. A review of our internal standard and current level of implementation was undertaken in 2017. Sites with legislative requirements for closure plans had plans in place and these resulted in many of the internal requirements being met. Further work will be undertaken in 2018 to provide detailed guidance on the internal standard and ensure implementation across all sites.

During 2017, the rehabilitation of 230 hectares of land in Australia and the US was completed. Nineteen hectares of land was disturbed in 2017, with eight of these hectares due to the commencement of the Cataby project. Total open area decreased from 5,720 hectares to 5,510 hectares in Australia and the US.

A review of rehabilitation and closure practices for the Sierra Rutile operations commenced in 2017. Sierra Rutile’s total open area will be integrated with Australia and US in 2018.

Iluka relinquished over 70 hectares of tenure in Western Australia during 2017 and released 45 hectares of land in the US.

In December, Iluka announced a US$90 million increase in the rehabilitation provision for our closed operations in the United States. Iluka continues to engage proactively with regulatory agencies to assess the nature and extent of any change to its proposed rehabilitation program. As the nature and extent of any rehabilitation program remains uncertain, the provision increase has been calculated on a probabilistic basis across a range of scenarios.

External collaboration

  • Iluka contributed to the inaugural Research Symposium on Mineral Resources of Sri Lanka, held in Colombo in October 2017, and organised by the Minister for Mahaweli Development and Environment. Our Senior HSEC Specialist, Matthew Harding, provided a presentation “Restoration to Productive Land Use” to an audience of about 250 delegates. 
  • The Western Australia Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety hosted a forum in Perth in July 2017 for a group of Australian government officials to workshop new ways to prioritise the rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites. As part of the workshop, delegates visited our Yoganup, Yoganup West and Cloverdale sites to view examples of successful mine site rehabilitation and closure.

Mineral waste is the definition given to the materials removed from the mine void that are separated from the valuable minerals over various processing stages. These are handled, stored and disposed of according to their properties, environmental factors and regulations. Many wastes are returned to the mine void to enable the formation of a final land surface similar to the pre-mining environment. The total amount of overburden, rock, mine and processing tailings (including sand tails and clay fines) for 2017 was 3,056,800 tonnes. 

Where mineral waste is contained in a slurry form, either within mine voids or in off-path storage, Iluka utilises tailings storage facilities (TSFs). We are committed to minimising, and where possible, eliminating risks to the environment, people and property associated with the use of TSFs. Mineral wastes stored in TSFs include clay fines; sand tails; co-disposal (sand and clay) tailings; and tailings from mineral separation and synthetic rutile plants. Iluka adopts the Australian National Committee of Large Dams guidelines and state or country specific guidelines. Annual audits by an external geotechnical specialist are conducted to confirm structural integrity and to assess that the design is appropriate for the current situation.

We acknowledge that in the past, some practices of managing mineral waste streams undertaken in accordance with the standards of the day, may not meet current standards. We have programs in place to ensure the appropriate management of legacy issues associated with historic activities, with the principal focus on the protection of human health and the environment. We recognise the significant social, regulatory and financial challenges associated with meeting this objective. We ensure due process is applied to the management of legacy issues and recognise that any action must be undertaken in conjunction with relevant stakeholders.     

Sierra Rutile

During 2017 Sierra Rutile has significantly reduced the geotechnical risk of its tailings structures. Quarterly inspections are being carried out by a geotechnical specialist consultant and their recommended actions are being progressed on site. Ongoing water management remains a risk for the operation and is currently being monitored and managed closely.

Naturally occurring radiation and mineral sands

Mineral sands, as with other minerals such as clay, soils, rocks and many ores, contain levels of natural occurring radioactive material (NORM). This is associated with low level, naturally occurring uranium and thorium contained within the grains of the minerals monazite, xenotime, zircon and sometimes ilmenites. While the level of NORM in most natural substances is low, any operation in which material containing radiation is extracted from the earth and processed, can potentially concentrate NORM in the mineral sands products, by-products and waste (residue) materials. For this reason, stringent, internationally-accepted radiation management standards are adopted to minimise the risk to human health and the environment.

We apply radiation management practices that are aligned with international best practice according to the publications of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as the relevant country’s legislation. We identify, assess and control risks associated with NORM, radon gas and man-made sources through all phases of our activities – exploration, project development, operations, rehabilitation and closure. Our Group Radiation Management Standard and site specific radiation management plans ensure exposure to radiation meets the prescribed statutory limits and is as low as is reasonably achievable.

Radiation Factsheet

Our product stewardship approach seeks to guide the application of mineral sands products to ensure a thorough understanding of their health, safety and environmental benefits and risks and to promote their responsible use. This follows the ICMM Sustainable Development Framework which requires companies to facilitate and encourage responsible design, use, recycle and disposal of its products. Product stewardship is integrated throughout business decisions and materials management. We engage with customers to create opportunities that promote the responsible use of mineral sands products. We also support scientific research activities and participate in industry consortia to support productive utilisation of products.

Over the course of 2017, we participated in two separate life cycle assessments conducted by the Zircon Industry Association as well as the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association.

We seek market opportunities for a number of by-products (or secondary products) including iron concentrate, activated carbon and gypsum which supports Iluka’s commitment to responsible reuse of our product throughout the value chain and reduces rehabilitation legacies.

Energy use and carbon emissions are recognised for their economic, social, environmental and regulatory impacts. We aim to conserve energy, measure outputs, monitor impacts and are committed to meeting current and future regulatory requirements.

Methodologies used to calculate direct (Scope 1[1]) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions include direct measurements of energy sources consumed, calculations based on site-specific data and calculations based on published criteria (such as emission factors and global warming potential).  In general, we report our emissions and energy consumption under the country of operation’s regulations and policies. For example, in Australia, we report our emissions and energy consumption under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System (NGER).

We acknowledge that our activities are inherently energy-intensive with the majority of our GHG emissions generated from energy use during mining and processing. Energy consumption for 2017 increased slightly over 2016 levels. Coal usage continues to make up 66% of energy resources used. Scope 1 and Scope 2[1] emissions were slightly lower in 2017 due to decreased activities in all the regions and a three-month maintenance shutdown at our Narngulu operations.

Scope 1 emissions at our Sierra Rutile operation are largely related to the use of diesel in vehicles and the power plant for the generation of electricity. The power plant consists of four engine driven generators with marine fuel oil as a power source and operates all year to supply electricity to the operations. 

 

 

[1] Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions are the emissions released to the atmosphere as a direct result of an activity, or series of activities at a facility level. Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions are the emissions released to the atmosphere from the indirect consumption of an energy commodity.

We understand that water is a precious shared resource and mining is a significant water user. We have an important role in the sustainable management of water resources in the locations we operate, particularly in water-stressed areas and in areas where water resources are shared with the community. We use water in our mining, processing and separation processes, and place a strong focus on the sustainable use of water and in continually developing efficient and improved solutions for water use. Initiatives include the process use of hyper saline water and recycled water in process plants. If we can recycle process water through the system there are only minor losses due to evaporation and infiltration.

2017 saw a decrease in water use across our operations (excluding Sierra Rutile)  mainly due to the suspension of activities at Hamilton, the continued suspended activities at Jacinth-Ambrosia and the three-month maintenance shutdown of the plant at Narngulu. The increase in the use of collected rainwater can be attributed to the increased stormwater runoff stored onsite at our Virginia operations in the United States. Similarly, the decrease in water discharge is in part due to the Virginia operations reducing on-site water before idling operations during 2016 which meant that no water discharges were required during 2017, as well as a decrease in production and improvements in recycling water within the production circuit at Hamilton.

Recognising that water connects an operation to the surrounding landscape and communities, water management forms a large part of the current Sierra Rutile ESHIA investigation to better understand the baseline environmental water flow, water quality conditions and existing water users (including the environment). Water management requirements, risks and more efficient use of water during processing are also being considered. Detailed water use and discharge metrics for Sierra Rutile have not been included in this report for the 2017 reporting year while the ESHIA is being undertaken. 

 

 

Iluka uses an event management system to record environmental incidents, which are then classified according to the severity of the potential impact to the environment. Level 1 incidents have no or minimal impact and Level 5 incidents have the greatest potential cumulative impact over time.

During 2017 the number of Level 3 and above environmental incidents decreased from previous years (2015: 14; 2016: 11; 2017: 7). The overall number of incidents being reported also decreased from 744 in 2016 to 444 in 2017 and can be attributed to a number of factors including the suspension of mining and concentrating activities at Jacinth-Ambrosia and processing activities at Hamilton. Four of the Level 3 and above incidents related to the discharge of turbid surface water off-site due to significant rainfall events in both Australia and the United States. During 2017 we reviewed and updated our site surface water management plans and, as a result, incidents relating to turbid surface water runoff reduced during 2017.

2017 was the baseline year for Sierra Rutile in terms of environmental incident reporting as the operation transitioned to our internal reporting standards and guidelines. A performance improvement target was set in the 2016 Sustainability Report to encourage and increase incident reporting. This encouragement resulted in the number of environmental incidents increasing from [23] per month average in the March quarter to [64] per month average in the December quarter. During the year, 27 Level 3 and above incidents were reported, with the majority relating to product or hydrocarbon spillages on haul roads and water quality discharge. A number of management and mitigation measures as well as awareness training have been implemented. A total of 508 incidents, ranging from Level 1 to Level 4, were reported.

Incident level 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 (Iluka) 2017 (SRL)
Level 3 45 30 11 8 6 12
Level 4 12 4 3 3 1 8
Level 5 0 0 0 0 0 0
Level 3 – 5 57 34 14 11 7 20
Total (all levels) 986 1,196 887 744 445 508