The Coalfield is situated in an arid flat plain, approximately 300km north of Port Augusta (Figure 1), at an elevation of around 200m above sea level. It is bounded by undulating low ranges (150-200m in height) 2-5km to the west and 5-10km to the east. Numerous creek beds dissect the landscape, particularly to the west. The main watercourse in the area, Leigh Creek, flows northwards through the Coalfield deposit towards Lake Eyre South.
The Leigh Creek Mine Closure Plan addresses environmental and social risks both in relation to the areas defined by the mine leases and to neighbouring landholders and communities. The environmental and social values that have been considered in preparing the mine closure plan include the:
- Health and safety of people
- Sensitivity of associated ecosystems
- Maintenance of water quality and flows in surface waterways
- Maintenance of water quality in groundwater
- Creation of safe, stable, non-polluting and sustainable landforms
When did the mine close and why?
In June 2015, Alinta Energy advised the State Government that its Flinders Operations had become increasingly uneconomic and as a result, the company made the difficult decision to close its Leigh Creek coal mine.
The mine’s closure is linked to Alinta’s decision to close the Port Augusta power stations, which were the only customers of the coal from the mine.
Operations at the Leigh Creek mine ceased on 17 November 2015 and planning has begun for the closure of the mine site.
How will the mine be closed safely?
The Mines and Works Inspection Act 1920 provides the framework for rehabilitation and closure of the mine site.
Flinders Power is committed to ensure compliance with our obligations under the leasing arrangements and under the Act regarding the safe closure and rehabilitation of the Leigh Creek mine.
A project team, with expertise in environmental risk management, mine closures and project management, will work within the regulatory frameworks to:
- ensure that all environmental and public safety risks are properly managed
- close the mine site to a condition that is safe and stable for future generations.
Flinders Power is working with the State Government to agree the appropriate staged closure process for the mine, and stages are outlined in the mine closure framework diagram.
How long will the mine closure take?
The mine closure has begun and is expected to be completed by 2018.
How do we know the mine closure won’t damage the environment?
A comprehensive assessment has identified a full range of risks and potential outcomes associated with the mine’s closure to ensure all environment, health and safety standards are met, including;
- Public safety
- Spontaneous combustion
- Surface and ground water management
- Retention dam management
- Infrastructure retention
- Leigh Creek Waste Disposal facility management.
The Leigh Creek coal mine is subject to a licence issued by South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA). The mine closure plan will also include the requirements of the EPA licence.
What impact will the mine closure have on railway operations?
Coal haulage ceased on 27 April 2016, however Flinders Power will maintain the railway in accordance with the S.A Governments Leigh Creek Railway Lease, before it is handed back to the State Government in July 2018.
What is the future of the Leigh Creek mine site?
Any vision that is to be developed for the mine site will be based on a long-term safe and stable outcome for future generations.
Engagement with community and government stakeholders will help inform the closure of the mine site
Where do I go for further information about the mine closure or/ a copy of the closure plan?
Leigh Creek Mine Background
Open cut mining officially commenced in Lobe B, an area formerly known as the ‘Telford Open Cut’, in August 1943. The early years of Leigh Creek saw a dramatic increase in production from 9,000 tons per annum in 1943 to approximately 440,000 tons per annum in 1949/50.
The next stage of Leigh Creek development occurred when the Electricity Trust of South Australia took control of the Coalfield in February 1948 as part of the process of developing what is now known as the Playford A Power Station. Mining then moved to Lobes C and D (Northfield).
Early stripping operations began on Lobe D in 1948 and Lobe C in 1963. These deposits were mined until September 1977.
In the mid 1970’s it was decided to build a 500 megawatt power station at Port Augusta, called the Northern Power Station. That decision meant enlarging the coalfield using new methods to extract deeper coal, increasing production and building a retention dam to prevent possible flooding of the field and diverting the main highway around the coalfield. The Northern Power Station, constructed adjacent the Playford A and B Power Stations, was commissioned in 1985.
As the former Leigh Creek Town was located within the coal basin, the Electricity Trust of South Australia decided in 1976 to move the town away from the coalfield and build a new town. The site was selected 22km south at Windy Creek and plantings were established in 1977. Construction of the new town commenced in 1979 and the first house was occupied in 1980.