West Australian sand mining company VRX Silica (ASX: VRX) has submitted its plans for environmental measures at its proposed Arrowsmith North project.
The plan, which promises a “very low” carbon footprint, has been sent to the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for approval, which is the next stage in developing the silica sand mine 270m north of Perth.
The EPA submission concludes that Arrowsmith North “can be developed without significant residual impacts on the environment”.
VRX says the referral of the plan is the culmination of “wide-ranging” environmental studies by and for the company over the past three years.
There has also been “extensive” consultation with the EPA.
Flora and fauna transferred intact
VRX says its vegetation direct transfer method lends itself to rapid and extensive regeneration, with the rehabilitation being carried out on a continuous basis as mining progresses.
Root structures in the loose sand at Arrowsmith North are relatively shallow, being between 200m and 300m deep.
The proposed transfer method removes a 400mm-deep sod, with the topsoil containing the vast majority of the native flora and invertebrate fauna being preserved.
The near-surface humus and its microbial content remain intact.
VRX will use no chemicals, and produce no dust, while processing the mined silica sand.
The sand will be beneficiated to a glass-quality product for export.
A “substantial” amount of the water used at the project will be recycled, with a goal of 95% of the water being reused.
Hybrid power system will reduce emissions
Water will be sourced from the deeper Yarragadee North aquifer.
The processing plant will ultimately be powered by a hybrid wind, solar and gas power system to minimise emissions.
VRX managing director Bruce Maluish said the environmental referral is a significant milestone for the company.
“VRX has developed a unique and progressive mining and rehabilitation method specifically for Arrowsmith North and our other silica sand projects to minimise the environmental impact of our activities.”
“Thorough planning will allow us to deliver our silica sand projects sustainably and efficiently, with a very low carbon footprint,” he added.
Three silica sand projects in WA
VRX has three projects in Western Australia (Arrowsmith North, Arrowsmith Central and Muchea) that have a confirmed mine life of 25 years each — and the potential to be in production for about 100 years.
At present the projects have a combined 1.056 million tonnes of resource at grades between 99.6% and 99.9% silicon dioxide (or silica), with low iron impurities.
All the projects are located between Geraldton and Perth.
Silica sand is a bulk commodity and one of the most mined minerals in the world.
Arrowsmith North has a very positive infrastructure advantage — it is traversed by the Eneabba-Geraldton rail line, completed in 1972 to carry minerals sands, which provides direct access to the Geraldton port.
The company reported earlier that silica samples had been sent to more potential new customers as VRX continues to engage with offtake partners in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, most of them glass makers and foundries.