Toxins at mine sites near homes

Over 20 mine processing sites in Western Australia may contain toxins such as mercury, lead and arsenic.

And two-thirds of the sites are within 25 kilometres of houses and towns.

Soil samples showed mercury, lead and arsenic at some sites that were only 400 metres from houses. Samples also showed asbestos and toxic tailings.

The Department of Environment and Conservation said yesterday 25 battery sites could be contaminated in the last seven years and warranted examination.

The DEC, which regulates contaminated mine sites, said it was not its role to clean up polluted land owned by others, The West Australian reported.

“Soil and possibly groundwater testing and investigations by the landowner would be required at these sites if a change in land use were proposed,” a DEC spokeswoman said.

She added there was no reason to believe materials or tailings were taken from any of the 25 sites.

A site in Coolgardie, about 558 kilometres east of Perth and only 1.4 kilometres from homes, had mercury in the soil while a site at Marvel Loch had arsenic four kilometres from homes.

Dwellers and builders have been using lead tailings in Northampton for 30 years after the battery closed. They did not know about its toxicity.

The West Australian disclosed fears of contamination six weeks ago at Northampton after lead tailings from the State Battery close by were used in the Mid West town.

The state government initiated a year-long project that checked every piece of land in the town.

Goldcorp owns 20 out of the 25 battery sites after the State Government’s then Department of Mines gave the rights to it. The mines minister has rights to two other sites.

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