Nickel Refinery Environmental Assessment & Management Program

planning and approvalsenvironmental auditingcontaminated site assessmentmonitoring and reportingnatural resource managementstakeholder consultation

Yabulu Nickel Refinery Environmental Assessment & Management Program

Project Description

BHP Billiton previously operated the Yabulu Nickel Refinery, located on a 2464 ha land holding on the north Queensland tropical coast adjacent to Halifax Bay, approximately 30 km north-west of Townsville.  The refinery processes approximately 7000 t/d of wet ore to produce approximately 70 t of nickel and 4 t of cobalt.  By-products resulting from the treatment process include a number of solid and liquid waste streams, including approximately 1.9 Mtpa of tailings solids, 4500 ML/yr of tailings liquor, and 4000 ML of excess waste water.  Tailings and liquor are disposed into a system of tailings ponds at the site.  For 26 years, the excess waste water from the refinery was intermittently discharged via an ocean outfall pipeline extending 1.8 km into Halifax Bay.  The tailings ponds, refinery and associated infrastructure are separated from the Halifax Bay coastline by a coastal sand buffer zone approximately 1 km wide.  The coastal fringe separating the refinery area from the bay consists of swampy mangrove areas, marshes and sand dunes.  Local creeks flow across coastal plains of open eucalypt woodland and vine forest before discharging into tidal estuaries.

Services Provided

Lloyd Consulting was engaged by BHP Billiton to implement and manage a detailed Environmental Assessment and Management (EA&M) program for the site as a corporate best practice initiative for the Yabulu Refinery.  The aims of the assessment program were to provide the information required to successfully implement appropriate remedial and environmental management practices, as well as maintaining compliance with regulatory licenses.  In undertaking the program, BHP Billiton aimed to achieve best management practice by understanding the impacts of the Yabulu Refinery on its local environment and managing the environmental impacts appropriately.  Lloyd Consulting engaged a range of leading experts from industry and recognised academic institutions to meet these project aims.  Under the management of Lloyd Consulting, the team of experts undertook annual environmental investigations and reporting for the refinery, as well as providing strategic and day-to-day environmental planning for the operations.

The overall objectives of the EA&M program were to:

  • Monitor physical, chemical and biological conditions within the terrestrial, aquatic, estuarine and marine environments.
  • Investigate and characterise any potential environmental effects and assess environmental impacts accruing from these effects.
  • Identify and assess possible remedial / management actions.
  • Develop a scientifically defensible environmental monitoring data set.

The programme outcomes implemented by Lloyd Consulting allowed BHP Billiton to develop and prioritise appropriate management measures for the refinery operations to ensure the environmental impacts of the refinery were minimised.