The Victorian government in Australia has denied approval to Kalbar Operations’ Fingerboards mineral sands mine in the state, citing unacceptable risks to the environment.

The rejection of the proposed mining project by Victoria Minister for Planning Richard Wynne follows his acceptance of a recommendation from an independent advisory committee.

The recommendation found that the Fingerboards project will have a considerable impact on local wildlife, air quality, vegetation, horticulture, and agriculture.

The evaluation by the committee also ruled that the mineral sands project will have posed substantial risks to the surface water downstream.

Located nearly 20km northwest of Bairnsdale, the mineral sands project was proposed to draw around 170 million tonnes (MT) of ore over a projected mine life of 20 years. The extracted ore was expected to produce nearly 8MT of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC).

The mineral products that were planned to be processed from the HMC include zircon, rutile, ilmenite, and rare earths.

The Victorian Planning Minister had instructed Kalbar Operations to submit an environment impact statement for the Fingerboards mineral sands mine. It was reviewed by an independent inquiry and advisory committee and subsequently, public hearings were held from May to July 2021.

As per the committee, the environmental impacts of the mineral sands project cannot be managed to an acceptable level, and that it should not move ahead in its present form.

Minister Wynne said: “We owe it to the community and the environment to get this right and ensure only projects that adequately protect our environment go ahead.”

“I have accepted the committee’s recommendation not to proceed with planning permissions for this project. The committee’s review of the environment effects statement found this project would pose a significant risk to the environment and valuable horticulture industry.”

The proposed Fingerboards mineral sands mine was estimated to involve an investment of more than A$200m ($144m).