Copping C-cell

During the federal election the proponent of the Copping hazardous waste landfill facility (or C-cell), Southern Waste Solutions (SWS), tried unsuccessfully to obtain a funding commitment from the major political parties. On 2 August 2013 the Southern Tasmanian Councils Association released its ‘2013 Federal Election Manifesto’, which includes a request for a commitment to providing $9 million for construction of the proposed Copping C-cell. We noted that both the Labor and Liberal candidates for Lyons (the electorate covering the Copping site) told the Mercury during the election that they supported the C-cell but neither made a commitment to funding it. We noticed no other statements from the Labor and Liberal parties. The Greens candidate for Lyons, Pip Brinklow, told the Mercury that she opposed the C-cell.

Other funding

In a letter to the TCT at the end of 2012 the state government ruled out funding the C-cell. In August this year SWS failed to obtain funding from the Regional Development Australia Fund and recently failed to obtain an election commitment for financial support. We now suspect that SWS is seeking funding from a number of major companies (who may have legacy waste and be potential customers) to fund the C-cell construction.

We have started contacting likely businesses and some seem sincerely committed to not using the proposed C-cell. But Nyrstar is very much sitting on the fence. On 22 August 2013 we received an emailed statement from Nyrstar’s Communications Advisor regarding the company’s position on the Copping C-cell, which seemed to leave open the option of using the facility.

The Southern Beaches Conservation Society and the TCT wrote to the company on 22 October 2013 stating:

We are not entirely put at ease by the statement that ‘Nyrstar has no current plans to send 200,000 tonnes of jarosite to the proposed facility at Copping’ because ‘current plans’ can change and you provide no explanation as to what would, or would not, make you change your plans. Similarly, the company’s commitment that ‘waste minimisation remains our first priority’, fails to address your position in relation to dealing with existing stockpiles of Jarosite and related materials.

We further stated:

…because Nrystar’s position in relation to the Copping C-cell is less than entirely emphatic, that the C-cell proponent Southern Waste Solutions is keeping alive hopes that the C-cell may be funded in part by Nyrstar. SWS’s ‘Strategic Plan 2012/13 to 2016/17 and Business Plan 2012/13 to 2014/15’ (which is available on its website) includes the statement that SWS intends ‘Finalising contractual arrangements with Nyrstar for use of the Category C cell development at Copping’.

Disappointingly the company replied as follows:

Thank you for your correspondence regarding Nrystar’s Waste management Strategy.

Together with our experienced environmental management team here at Nrystar we work closely with local government and regulatory authorities regarding our waste management plans. We keep State Government informed of our position which remains as per the advice this year.

While Nrystar failed to commit to avoiding sending jarosite to landfill, the long hoped-for upgrade of Nyrstar’s Port Pirie smelter has garnered political support and may make reprocessing jarosite at Port Pirie possible and financially attractive and rule out needing the Copping C-cell.

In May this year the federal government agreed to provide a $150-million loan guarantee from the Australian Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to support the $350-million project. It was reported at that time that Nyrstar is proceeding with the final feasibility study, with a report due to the board in the first quarter of 2014.

SWS goes public

In a major moral victory for the TCT, SWS has bent to the demands of the Local Government Office (but at our request) that it should be providing regular public reports to each participating council, i.e. Clarence, Kingborough, Tasman and Sorell. This is a campaign that the TCT started more than 12 months ago and it should provide the public with better information about SWS’s activities between annual reports. We will also be approaching interested councillors and asking them to query SWS about its current and planned activities: in particular, from whom it is requesting funding.

SWS is the major domestic landfill manager (B-cell) for southern Tasmania; providing regular reports to the southern Tasmanian community is essential and long overdue, even if the C-cell is not built.

Peter McGlone