A proposal to remediate the former Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter site has been approved after a rigorous assessment by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).
The project, which began in 2014, is primarily for the construction of an onsite, engineered containment cell (about 300,000 cubic metres in volume when completed), as well as the transfer of the contents of an existing approved stockpile of mixed waste generated during the 1970s and 80s.
Several pockets of contaminated soil, along with some demolition and other smelter waste that cannot be reused or recycled, will also be placed in the suppression chamber.
The demolition of the Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter began in May 2017 – and is now virtually complete.
Rezoning applications received endorsements from both Cessnock City and Maitland City councils, too, who are exhibiting the planning development and seeking feedback from the community until Monday 1 February.
Hydro Aluminium managing director Richard Brown is delighted with the go-ahead.
“We have been very keen to prepare the site for reuse,” he said.
“This approval means we can now get on with the redevelopment of the site, which can help to regrow the economy in and around Kurri Kurri, especially after it was impacted by the closure of the smelter now more than eight years ago.
“Residents won’t be at risk once this cell is constructed either.
“The approved location and design of the cell will ensure that there are no impacts in the surrounding environment.
“Daracon Contractors – part of the Daracon Group – was awarded the remediation contract in December 2019 to carry out the construction of the containment cell and placement of all of the mixed waste and other materials.
“The 2000-hectare site is mostly buffer land that requires no redress.
“A large proportion of this is highly-valued bushland with significant conservation value.
“The majority [of that land] will be maintained in its natural state, as an offset for residential development planned near the Gillieston Heights and Cliftleigh residential corridor along Cessnock Road, and employment lands planned for around the smelter site, closer to Kurri Kurri and Weston, and straddling the Hunter Expressway at Hart Road.”
The NSW Government will take ownership of the containment cell once it has been completed and independently audited, a process that will ensure the integrity of the cell upon completion and over a five-year period post-construction.
It’ll be owned and managed by the Waste Assets Management Corporation (WAMC), part of the DPIE.
WAMC boasts the experience and expertise to manage landfills and containment cells on behalf of the NSW Government, according to Mr Brown.
The ongoing management will be paid for entirely by Hydro, through a monetary contribution to be administered by the department.
Project director and spokesperson for the Stevens/McCloy joint venture Shane Boslem admitted he was “looking forward to the development taking place”.
“The Maitland and Kurri Kurri areas have a lot of potential for further growth given this area’s strategic location close to the Hunter Expressway and the Maitland, Cessnock corridor,” he said.
“Significant residential development has already occurred.
“The site’s southern area is ideal for employment lands due to its proximity to the Hunter Expressway, access to significant existing infrastructure and the existence of a rail line through the site and, of course, a skilled workforce.
“The economic benefits associated with the site’s redevelopment has the potential to include a significant jobs boost for the local community.”
The first steps towards residential development are expected to get underway within six months of the rezoning being completed.
A video explaining the concept design is available at https://youtu.be/qQlO5mTpzvY