Tellus Holdings’ geological journey

Tellus Holdings’ geological journey

Tellus Holdings’ Stephen Hosking highlights construction works on Australia’s first kaolin mine and geological waste repository.

According to the Department of Innovation, Industry and Science, as of January 2019 the amount of hazardous waste in Australia was growing at a faster rate than the population. 

If not managed correctly, hazardous waste can have disastrous effects on communities and the environment. In order to regulate the industry and mitigate the risk of rogue operators, the approvals process needs to be thorough.

These risks highlight the significance of infrastructure development company Tellus’ Sandy Ridge facility. Sandy Ridge will accept up to 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste per annum, using a best practice multi barrier system that comprises man-made barriers (active control) and natural barriers (passive control) that can permanently isolate the waste for millions of years. 

The Federal Government shares a similar contention, awarding the facility Major Project Facilitation status in 2017. 

Tellus has recently received local government approval from the Western Australia Mid-West Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP), the latest step in a long run of studies and approvals over six years for the project.

The company received approval from a number of government bodies including the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy, the Western Australian EPA, the Western Australian Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety and the Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental and Regulation. 

The JDAP approval is a further show of support for Tellus’ plans for long term storage, recycling and recovery of valuable materials and the permanent isolation of hazardous waste, including naturally occurring radioactive material and disused radioactive sources.  

With approvals in hand and financing secured earlier this year, Tellus’ General Manager Stephen Hosking, who is responsible for constructing Tellus’ infrastructure, says the company has now commenced construction of enabling works at Sandy Ridge.

“GR Engineering Services (GRES) were awarded the lead engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract in February and have commenced detailed design and procurement ahead of mobilising to site in June this year.”

As well as the lead EPC contract, the enabling stage of construction also involves maintenance and upgrade contracts focused on local roads and intersections around the facility, allowing for safer access. It also involves upgrading a neighbouring airstrip to enable the site’s workforce to travel to and from the site.

Stephen says work on the airstrip is particularly important to the company as the site will soon see the arrival of more than 100 construction workers and up to 80 operational staff at its peak.

“We have spent a considerable amount of time focusing on how we can make our site a great place to work and so being able to fly to a nearby airstrip cuts down travel time considerably. Providing our staff and contractors with best-in-class accommodation and food with good communications connectivity have been non-negotiables for us.”

In parallel to the GRES award, Tellus has also mobilised project management consultant Turner and Townsend to its Perth office, and placed long lead procurement orders with Fleetwood Australia for site buildings and an innovative air dome structure from US-based supplier Arizon Building Systems. 

“Air domes are very popular in North America and Europe and we are very excited to be bringing this innovative and low-cost building system to Australia. The air dome will be installed by GRES before mining of our first waste cell. It will allow year-round waste operations for our clients, while providing a safe working environmental for our personnel,” Stephen says.

Commencement of construction on the main facility site is planned for June when GRES will mobilise to Sandy Ridge. 

The site works will include installation of the air dome, development of the first kaolin open pit or waste cell, container yards, an onsite laboratory, office and accommodation village.

The facility will start to accept waste for surface storage in September this year with full operations commencing from March next year.