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The draft TOR will outline the requirements and scope of technical studies that must be undertaken by Diatreme Resources as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Northern Silica Project (NSP). These include environmental studies as well as assessing implications on social and economic values.
The NSP has not been approved. Approval of the project (including the granting of a mining lease by the Queensland Government) will be dependent on the outcomes of the EIS process.
The EIS has not yet been prepared, though a number of technical studies have commenced. The draft TOR for the EIS will be available for public review and comment in Q3 2023.
If there are additional or specific issues that the community wants addressed in the draft TOR, the current public comment period is aimed at seeking this feedback. The formal submission process is being managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES).
Submissions on the draft TOR should be made to the Department directly as the entity managing the EIS process - those details will be made available here once the public notification period commences.
The purpose of this step in the EIS process is to make affected and interested persons aware of the NSP proposal and to invite the public to review and provide submissions on the draft TOR, which will outline what topics and issues the EIS must cover and contain.
However, this is only the first stage of a broader stakeholder engagement programme on the draft EIS that will be occurring in parallel with the preparation of the document.
The public will have the opportunity to make a submission on the actual draft EIS document once it is prepared (this is expected in mid-2024).
The EIS process will involve comprehensive environmental studies to determine the extent to which the proposed mining and associated export operation affect the environmental values of the land, sea and waterways.
It is planned that the mine site will have extensive buffer areas proposed to protect waterways, wetlands, and important vegetation communities.
The mining operation is not proposed to extend into or below the natural groundwater table and any indirect impacts on surface water and groundwater both within and adjacent to the mine site will be comprehensively assessed as part of the EIS.
The project will be closely regulated by Government approval processes at the Commonwealth, State and local government level, which will require best practice environmental management approaches are undertaken.
It is acknowledged that there may be community concern with the human health implications involving the stockpiling and transportation of silica sand. This is a matter that will be addressed and confirmed in the EIS.
The silica sand, in its natural form as mined and during proposed transport over land and water as part of the NSP, is inert sand with a typical particle size that does not represent a human health risk as dust or as air emissions.
This is in contrast to silica dust (crystalline silica) which is more generally associated with further processes after mining, such as cutting or grinding of manufactured quartz products and is harmful when inhaled into the lungs. This respirable quartz is approximately 100 times smaller than a typical grain of beach sand which Diatreme Resources is looking to mine and process at Northern Silica.
The project will produce a premium-quality silica sand, suitable for the fast-growing solar panel manufacturing industry and other high-tech applications. Demand for solar energy continues to increase, with the International Energy Agency reporting that solar investment will eclipse oil production for the first time ever in 2023.