One of the world’s largest air dome structures built in WA

One of the world’s largest air dome structures has been built at Tellus Holdings’ Sandy Ridge facility in Western Australia, as part of developing the first commercial geological repository for hazardous waste in the country.

The structure is 180 metres long, 90 metres wide and 28 metres at its highest point, Tellus Holdings CEO Duncan van der Merwe said, covering 16,200 metres squared.

“The air dome structure is a state-of-the-art engineered barrier that protects the environment and human health, and allows for all-year, all-weather waste management services,” he said.

Collaboratively developed by Arizon Building Systems and Perth-based GR Engineering Services, Mr van der Merwe said the air dome structure is incremental in the development of Tellus Holding’s commercial geological hazardous waste repository.

“It will provide an innovative infrastructure solution unsurpassed in the storage of hazardous waste in Australia today,” he said.

“What was essential for Tellus in the development of this air dome structure was its ability to take into account environmental factors, and in particular, the health and wellbeing of the team of people who work at the facility.”

According to Tellus Holdings General Manager Project Development Stephen Hosking, the permanent isolation system for hazardous waste in Sandy Ridge will be the first commercial scale repository in Australia.

“The air dome is perfectly suited to our requirements at Sandy Ridge, and the team worked tirelessly to ensure it was delivered incident free,” he said.

“At Tellus, our endeavour to provide engineering excellence across all areas of construction have been paramount to this innovative installation that has set a benchmark for others to follow.”

Key features of the air dome structure include a relocatable anchor foundation system, air handling units, vehicle air interlock, wind sensors, digital command controllers, full bias cable system and heavy-duty membrane, air quality and ventilation monitoring.

“The innovative custom air supported structure incorporates a unique anchor system, with the capital cost of the final installed solution approximately 30 per cent of the equivalent conventional building solution,” Mr Hosking said.

“The dome took just three hours to inflate, becoming the first of its type commissioned in the Southern Hemisphere.”

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Tellus Holdings secures approval for Sandy Ridge project

Infrastructure development company Tellus Holdings’ Sandy Ridge facility has received approval from the Western Australia Mid — West Wheatbelt Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP).

The project is a kaolin mining operation which will include a waste facility for the permanent storage of hazardous waste.

It will require the commissioning of the waste cell infrastructure, access roads, raw water supply and other key infrastructure for the waste facility.

Tellus Holdings General Manager for Health, Safety, Environment, Compliance and Quality Richard Phillips said the approval signifies government are confident Tellus Holdings has considered, and can manage the potential benefits and risks associated with operating a dual business model.

“It means the Sandy Ridge Facility, Australia’s first dual, near-surface kaolin clay mine and complementary storage business, has now achieved environmental and planning approval from the federal government, state government and local government,” Mr Phillips said.

The JDAP unanimously approved the Sandy Ridge Facility on 3 April, subject to nine conditions and five advice Notes.

The nine conditions include requirements for bushfire management, emergency response management and traffic management.

The conditions must also adhere to the Ministerial Statement Number 1078 granted under part IV of the Western Australian Environmental Protection Act 1986 in June 2018.

Tellus Holdings Managing Director Duncan van der Merwe said the company has undertaken extensive environmental and engineering studies involving local, national and international experts and key community stakeholders.

“Once again, this latest approval is a show of support for Tellus’ evidence-based and risk-based environmental assessment. It is an important next step in securing the remaining approvals required for the Sandy Ridge Facility,” Mr der Merwe said.

Tellus Holdings will continue to liaise closely with Western Australian agency to secure remaining approvals and licensing.

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Keeping it to convention: Tellus Holdings

With hazardous chemical waste stockpiles rising, Waste Management Review explores the current state of regulation governing safe and permanent disposal of this potentially dangerous waste stream.

In 2016-17, Australia produced around 6.3 million tonnes of hazardous waste, an increase of around 26 per cent compared to the previous year, according to the 2018 National Waste Report.

These annual generation figures are dwarfed by the sheer amount of legacy hazardous waste, with hundreds of millions of tonnes being stockpiled and stored in facilities that are inappropriate for long-term situations.

That is according to data from the Hazardous Waste in Australia 2017 report, commissioned by the Federal Government Department of Environment and Energy, which finds new hazardous waste streams are also emerging as a result of changes to technology and consumer habits.

Australia has signed international treaties, such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which places obligations on countries to ensure hazardous wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner.

Multiple regulatory regimes manage hazardous waste in Australia, including environmental protection regulations which are designed to minimise the impacts on the environment and human health to meet Australia’s international responsibilities. 

National legislation and codes for the transport of dangerous goods aims to prevent accidents and promote safe transport, along with work health and safety regulations to reduce occupational health and safety risks in the workplace. Product stewardship regulations also aim to ensure products such as waste oil, asbestos, e-waste, tyres, batteries, mercury and medicines are responsibly managed.

Ensuring hazardous waste is stored safely often requires strong controls across the lifecycle of the waste, from its generation, to its storage, transport, treatment, recycling, recovery and final disposal. 

Richard Phillips, General Manager of Health, Safety, Environment, Compliance and Quality at Tellus Holdings, says hazardous wastes are often produced across a product’s lifecycle, in the mining, manufacturing, distribution, consumption and recycling stages.

“We all produce hazardous waste. On a per capita basis, Australia is one of the highest emitters of hazardous waste, with some of the larger producers being legacy contaminated site soil clean-up utilities, oil and gas, heavy industry, agriculture and mining industries,” Richard says.

“Much of this waste sits at the bottom of the waste hierarchy and cannot be recycled or reused – it needs to be permanently isolated from our biosphere.

“However, Australia doesn’t currently have the infrastructure to safely and permanently isolate these legacy wastes.” 

He adds that this applies to the isolation of current production and emerging wastes at cost effective price points, while meeting Australia’s international obligations.

One method of managing this waste is through a geological repository with a circular economy park. These use multiple natural and engineered barriers to store hazardous waste long-term, recover valuable materials, or permanently isolate hazardous materials.

Geological repositories make use of man-made and natural barriers, allowing them to permanently isolate waste for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Because of this, they have been recognised by the United Nations and European Union as effective methods for disposing of hazardous wastes, and due to their safety record, are enforced on a national level in countries such as the UK and Germany for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Richard adds the development of geological repositories requires significant investment of time and money to consider strict site selection criteria and navigate the regulatory approval process, which can cost millions of dollars and require years of development. 

Tellus Holdings has gone through the process of environmental assessment for its two sites: the Sandy Ridge Facility in WA and the Chandler Facility in the Northern Territory. Both projects have been recommended for approval by each jurisdictional Environmental Protection Authority. The Sandy Ridge Facility has been granted a ministerial approval by the WA Government and has received Federal Government approval.

By bringing these sites to market, Tellus aims to provide governments with a tool to adequately use to address the issue of legacy waste, current production and emerging hazardous waste in Australia.

“There’s increasing levels of support from government agencies, regulators, and from our customers for what Tellus is aiming to achieve,” Richard says.

“These facilities will provide Australia with the infrastructure it requires to ensure hazardous waste has a safe, final resting place permanently isolated from the biosphere in an environmentally sound manner.”

Tellus plans to support the creation of a circular economy by storing similar materials over time in order to create economics of scale advantages and by investing in technologies that recycle and recover valuable materials.

India bans solid plastic imports

India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has announced changes to hazardous waste laws, reversing exemptions from its 2016 ban on solid plastic imports.

Under previous laws, companies in designated economic development areas were exempt from the ban.

The change comes after the country saw an increase in waste imports as a result of the market vacuum generated by China’s National Sword policy.

The export oriented units clause, which gave local governments the ability to procure resources from abroad, has also been removed.

The ministry said changes were made in accordance with the ‘Make in India initiative’ by simplifying procedures and upholding principals of sustainable development and lessened environmental impact.

The ‘Make in India’ initiative was launched in 2014 with the goal of making India a sustainable global manufacturing hub.

The change follows India’s commitment to phase out single-use plastics by 2022.

Some of the features of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019, include prohibiting solid plastic was from being imported into the country, including in special economic zones and by export orientated units.

Electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

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CSIRO develops smelting process to reduce hazardous waste

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has developed a smelting process to produce soluble phosphate for fertiliser from low value ores, eliminating hazardous waste and making production more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Phosphate is a key ingredient in fertilisers and essential for plant health and growth. The AUD$73 billion global phosphate market continues to grow as demand for fertiliser increases to meet food production needs.

CSIRO team leader, Keith Barnard, said the CSIRO-developed PyroPhos process offers a simpler, safer and more efficient alternative to conventional phosphate production processes.

“The PyroPhos smelting process uses high temperature to extract phosphate from ores, producing prized phosphate feedstock and a glassy gravel that can be used in road base construction and Portland cement,” Dr Barnard said.

“A major benefit of the process is that is can be used on lower grade ores giving phosphate miners and processors the opportunity to increase their productivity in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The PyroPhos process is exclusively licenced to PyroPhos, a subsidiary of Process Capital.

Director of PyroPhos, Mark Muzzin, believes it’s a unique technology offering in the soluble phosphate fertiliser market.

“Our networks and investor base give us the ability to connect PyroPhos technology to the global phosphate industry,” Mr Muzzin said.

“We have had an excellent response from the industry and believe it has the ability to make a major impact.”

PyroPhos technology has emerged out of decades of research from CSIRO’s award-winning Sirosmelt innovation and pryometalurgical expertise.