The Sandy Ridge Facility is located approximately 240 kilometres (km) west-north-west of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia (WA).
The Sandy Ridge Facility is a near-surface geological waste repository in a 70-million-year-old kaolin clay bed. Following rigorous waste transport, verification and acceptance testing processes in line with the approved Public Environmental Review in 2016, hazardous and intractable waste is permanently isolated in the waste cell at Sandy Ridge. The waste cell is totally enclosed by one of the largest air domes in the world, which ensures the cell remains dry. Combined with the passive safety barriers of the natural geology and highly engineered closure controls, the Facility permanently isolates waste from our environment over geological time.
Stage of development
Tellus raised the finance required to build the Sandy Ridge Project and delivered the project on time and on budget. Tellus successfully completed construction, commissioning, and transition to operations of the Facility in 2020. Since then, the Facility has been safely accepting and handling hazardous waste for surface storage. On 19 March 2021, the WA Government granted an amended operating licence authorising waste treatment on site and in-cell placement of hazardous and intractable waste at the Facility.
An initial 25-year operating licence, but with the potential to be multi-generational with rolling approval extensions. It has the potential to be WA’s longest life project.
About geological repositories
The location of the development envelope has been specifically chosen for its natural characteristics which are aligned with the IAEA requirements (site selection criteria) and global best practice standards for a near surface geological repository.
Tellus completed comprehensive site investigations to support project approvals and technical studies. These included:
- Undertaking four drilling programs (drilled 324 holes and 10,122 metres [m])
- Undertaking a water investigation drilling program and monitoring bores
- Installing an automatic weather station
- Building a 39-tonne(t) kaolin pilot plant that produced 9 t of processed kaolin
- Receiving multiple expressions of interests (EOI) from kaolin buyers from 7 Asian countries
- Signing a kaolin market development agreement with AMR (Hong Kong)
- Undertaking kaolin immobilisation trials (hydrocarbons, PFAS, PCB/HCB)
- Undertaking multiple other field studies including biodiversity and heritage
- Comparing data with multiple international benchmark studies
Tellus has approval (subject to strict conditions) over 25 years to:
- Mine up to 290,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of kaolin clay
- Receive up to 100,000 tpa of hazardous waste at the facility gate, subject to licence conditions
- Dispose up to 280,000 tpa of treated (immobilised liquid waste) and hazardous waste into waste cells
- Build a 40,000-tonne kaolin clay plant (within five years). The kaolin clay can be used in environmental, plant and ceramics markets
Tellus plans to build a circular economy park at the Sandy Ridge Facility. The technologies used will be dependent on the waste received and the technical and economic viability of the waste material. The circular economy park will be subject to a separate approval process.
- About 100 jobs created during the construction phase of the project
- About 80 jobs created during the operation phase of the project
- Tellus has a policy of buying local and hiring local (where possible)
Tellus has received the following main approvals:
- Ministerial approval from the Australian Government in January 2019 via EPBC 2015/7475 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cmlth) (EPBC Act)
- Ministerial approval from the WA Environmental Minister in June 2018 under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) (EP Act)
- Licence under Part V of the EP Act to operate the Sandy Ridge Facility and dispose of Class IV and Class V intractable waste inside the waste cell
- Host of minor regulatory approvals required for the development
Three government levels recognition
Independent technical reviews
Stakeholders have been engaged using a range of consultation and communication techniques including face-to-face meetings, workshops, interviews, community information sessions, telephone and email communications, as well as media releases and website updates. Numerous meetings have been held with key stakeholders (including indigenous and local communities) and with government agencies in Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Boulder, Koolyanobbing, Southern Cross, Perth and Canberra.
Sandy Ridge’s waste acceptance criteria
The majority is chemical waste from a broad spectrum of industrial sectors, including mining, oil and gas, contaminated site remediation, and utilities, along with a small amount of low level radioactive waste (LLW), Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and low level Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources (DSRS).
Tellus’ Sandy Ridge Facility will not accept any nuclear waste, or waste streams falling under intermediate (ILW) or high-level (HLW) radioactive waste designations.
The Sandy Ridge Facility will be a State Emergency Services facility that can take diverse waste types from man-made and natural disasters.
What is hazardous waste and what type of chemical wastes will Tellus accept at the Sandy Ridge Facility?
What type of low-level radioactive waste will Tellus accept at the Sandy Ridge Facility?
Waste acceptance jurisdiction
Waste that will be accepted at the Sandy Ridge Facility will be sourced from states and territories within Australia and from Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Access to and from the Sandy Ridge Facility is from the Great Eastern Highway via the existing 95 km Mt Walton Road. Tellus has completed upgrades to the existing intersection and is progressing with upgrades to the railway crossing on Mt Walton Road. Tellus has also completed construction of a new 9 km access road to the site gatehouse from Mt Walton Road.
- Type – Open-cut mining
- Design – conventional open-pit for kaolin mining. The void left over from mining is then converted into a cell for hazardous waste that is stored in separate ‘like with like’ zones and with mobile roof (air dome) over the top
- Method in pit – continuous miner to break silcrete layer, then backhoe and dump truck to remove ore
- All weather (waste placement under air dome, available 365 days/year)
- Once a cell is full, it will be backfilled, capped, rehabilitated and monitored during an institutional control period (ICP)
Assurance and insurance
Tellus has an established and costed assurance framework and insurance policies following extensive government consultation and international peer review.