Woodsreef Mine is a derelict asbestos mine in the NSW Northern Tablelands.

Open cut mining for asbestos first occurred at Woodsreef from 1919 to 1923.

The Chrysotile Corporation of Australia carried out large scale mining at Woodsreef between 1970 and 1983.  Approximately 500,000 tonnes of chrysotile, or white asbestos was produced from 100 million tonnes of mined material.

The former mine extends over an area of approximately 400 hectares.  The site comprises a 75 million tonne waste rock dump, a 25 million tonne tailings dump and a number of open pits, some containing considerable quantities of water. Previously there were also a number of derelict buildings within the site, including an eight-storey mill building.

Woodsreef Mine Major Rehabilitation Project

In 2014, the NSW Government has provided funding of $6.3 million to address the most significant health, safety and environmental issues at the Woodsreef Mine, including:

  • the containment of processed friable chrysotile asbestos
  • removal of the mill building, silos, and administration buildings
  • implementation of a comprehensive air quality monitoring program and health risk assessment before, during and following remediation works

  • closure of Mine Road, Woodsreef.

Woodsreef Taskforce

The Woodsreef Taskforce was established by the Premier in 2008. The multi agency committee comprises representatives from NSW Department of Industry; Ministry of Health; Environment Protection Authority; WorkCover NSW; Hunter New England Health and Crown Lands.

Demolition Works

On 28 March 2011, NSW Department of Industry engaged NSW Public Works to project manage the demolition works.

The demolition works included an overall planning phase that was extended to allow for additional assessment/studies relating to the threatened Large-eared Pied Bat roosting in the mill building. The Large-eared Pied Bat is listed as a threatened species under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999. The Commonwealth Department of the Environment approved NSW Department of Industry to demolish infrastructure and carry out rehabilitation works at the derelict Woodsreef asbestos mine on 4 July 2014.

On 3 June 2015 all demolition works were completed 8 weeks ahead of the 32 week schedule and within the allocated budget.

All demolition works were carried out in accordance with Work Health & Safety Act and Environmental Management Plans in consultation with WorkCover NSW and the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).  This included regular independent audits, carried out to verify the contractor's compliance with safety and environmental requirements.

There were no safety incidents during the 24 week construction period, and a comprehensive air monitoring program undertaken by an Independent Licensed Asbestos Assessor for the duration of site works confirmed there were no off site impacts arising from the works.

As per the plan, the derelict buildings and infrastructure were demolished and buried on site within an EPA approved engineered containment cell.  Some structural steel from within the Mill Building was recycled following a decontamination process which was verified by an Independent Licensed Asbestos Assessor.

 Mill House aerial view

Picture: Mill House during demolition, aerial view

Mill House ground view

Picture: Mill House during demolition, ground view

After demolition

Picture: Woodsreef after demolition, containment cell in background

Drainage Works

NSW Department of Industry and the Soil Conservation Service have conducted a comprehensive Sediment Movement Assessment of the site. Soil Conservation Services has completed the drainage works program. Works ensure that sediment containing asbestos remains on site.

Signage and Security

A key initiative of the Woodsreef Taskforce was completed with the erection of the asbestos warning signs for motorists approaching the derelict Woodsreef Mine site. The signs describe mitigation measures which will lessen the exposure risk for the travelling public.  After the recent succession of vandalism of the warning signs, the Woodsreef Taskforce has involved the local authorities and are committed to their continued re-installation.

NSW Department of Industry has implemented additional security measures for the mine site including installing and maintenance of perimeter signage, and regular inspections of the perimeter fence and main access points.

Community consultation

The Woodsreef Community Advisory Group (WCAG) was established to run for a two year duration as part of the Woodsreef Mine Major Rehabilitation Project. The group was established to oversee:

  • the demolition of the dilapidated eight story mill house, silos and administration building
  • identification and management of stockpiled hazardous asbestos products around the mine
  • selection of sites for the comprehensive air quality monitoring program and health risk assessment.

The demolition and containment of the stockpiled asbestos was finalised in June 2015.  The terms of reference for the WCAG have been met and therefore the group has been dissolved.  The Woodsreef Taskforce would like to thank the Community Representatives for their valuable contribution to the WCAG and the Project.

Community consultation around this site will continue via a broader consultation program with the Barraba and Woodsreef communities.  For further information contact derelict.mines@industry.nsw.gov.au

Air Monitoring & Health Risk Assessment Project

The objective of the Air Monitoring & Health Risk Assessment Project is to determine the public health implications from potential asbestos exposure arising from the derelict mine site. NSW Department of Industry has engaged SLR Consulting Australia Pty Ltd to implement the Air Monitoring and Health Risk Assessment Project.

The Air Monitoring & Health Risk Assessment Project includes the following tasks:

  1. Hazard Identification Assessment - A hazard assessment is to be conducted to identify, characterise and rank sources of asbestos on the entire mine site, on the basis of their potential to result in off-site migration of asbestos.  This will assist in guiding priorities for onsite works or controls.
  2. Health Impact Assessment - A Health Impact Assessment is to be conducted to assess risks to human health in off-site areas associated with the proposed demolition works.  SLR will review the proposed emission management measures that will be implemented during the demolition works.  The Health Impact Assessment will include air dispersion modelling.  The off-site locations will be considered in consultation with the Woodsreef Community Advisory Group and may be at different distances from the mine site.  Air Monitoring will be conducted at agreed off-site locations prior to, during and after the demolition works.
  3. Activity-based Health Risk Assessment - An Activity-Based Health Risk Assessment is to be conducted to evaluate risks to human health derived from conducting activities in areas adjacent to the mine site.
  4. Long Term Health Risk Assessment - The long-term health risk assessment will quantify the risks to human health that may be associated with the Woodsreef Mine, after remediation has been completed.  SLR will conduct a comparison of asbestos air data collected from the off-site locations and the community location with data collected from another location with naturally occurring asbestos.  This report will be presented to the community through an information forum.

Diagram: The Woodsreef Air Monitoring & Health Risk Assessment Project depicting the relationship and dependencies of all six reports.

Diagram: The Woodsreef Air Monitoring & Health Risk Assessment Project depicting the
relationship and dependencies of all six reports.

The final report, due in 2017, will assist the NSW Government in the long-term management of the Woodsreef Mine.