The NSW EPA has lifted the prevention notice on the ammonia storage system for Orica’s Kooragang Island plant.
It came after a meeting of the Orica Start Up Committee on Monday, which endorsed the removing of the prevention notice on the ammonia feed tanks.
This lifting will allow for the start up of the ammonium nitrate plant, Orica says.
It "has demonstrated to the EPA and other regulatory bodies that it has satisfactorily addressed the issues that caused the 9 November ammonia vapor incident that resulted in the ammonium nitrate plant at the site being shut down," the company said in a statement.
Orica is continuing with the pre start-up testing of the ammonia plant that it began over the weekend.
The safety tests involve turning on the steam system to test its integrity.
The steam will then be used to check a range of systems and to prove if the vent stack is clean of any contamination from the 8 August incident.
Gary Davey, from the EPA explained that "Orica has completed the works recommended by the independent engineer concerning the nitric acid plant and ammonia feed tanks and the Start Up Committee has reviewed these and had them independently verified.
Davey explained that the EPA has now "accepted the recommendation of the Start Up Committee to allow restart of the ammonia feed tanks and will lift the prevention notice today. This means that Orica will be able to operate the nitric acid plant".
However, further pressure testing of its operating systems is still needed before it will restart after "Orica reported to the Committee that it encountered some problems over the weekend concerning the pressure testing of the ammonia plant," Davey stated.
These latest development were welcomed by the NSW Minerals Council.
"The NSW Minerals Council has said consistently that the plant should only recommence operations when the independent regulator has deemed it appropriate and we are pleased that the Government has gone through this rigorous process," acting CEO Sue-Ern Tan stated.
"This announcement provides the minerals industry with certainty about supplies for blasting and we will now work toward returning our mines to full operation over the coming weeks.
"The closure of the Orica plant, which supplies around 80 percent of the State’s mines, has had an impact on operations. Supplies were low and not readily available from other sources. Some companies sought to source small quantities of explosives from as far away as Western Australia and Indonesia," Tan added.
Following an update on the pre start-up tests, a date will be set for the next committee meeting.
Image: Daily Telegraph – Source: Robert McKell