Tellus conquers hazardous waste once and for all

There’s more to the concept of waste disposal than the safe storage of by-products or surplus goods.  Waste management, and in particular hazardous waste management, is an art in itself and stands alone as an economic generator as much as it is an environmental preserver.

Hazardous waste innovator Tellus is relatively new on the waste management scene in Australia and understands the opportunities the Australian mining industry is embracing in recognising the importance of safe hazardous waste disposal. In fact, the company has built a proven business model on it.

When Tellus’ Australian-first Sandy Ridge hazardous waste geological repository was opened in March 2021, the company understood the momentousness of its venture.

Located 240 kilometres north-west of Kalgoorlie by road, among some of the world’s best geology for this purpose, Sandy Ridge doesn’t just permanently and sustainably dispose of nearly all types of hazardous waste, it enables industries such as mining to do away with the liabilities associated with their legacy hazardous waste disposal obligations.

For Tellus chief executive officer Nate Smith, one of the biggest strengths of Sandy Ridge is the cost-effectiveness of the solution.

“We’re a new hazardous waste solution for the Australian mining industry to ensure they don’t have to compromise between mining development and environmental safety,” Smith says.

“The hard truth is that the issue of hazardous waste is not going away for the mining industry or Australia generally and that’s even with a renewed focus on renewables.

“With Sandy Ridge, Australia now has a world-class solution to ensure that hazardous waste of all types can be permanently dealt with and safely handled.”

It’s important to emphasise the perpetuity of Sandy Ridge – the harmful impacts of incoming hazardous waste are eliminated, not just from the environment but from the client’s balance sheet.

“Sandy Ridge coming online enables a seismic shift in how Australia deals with its hazardous waste, bringing a solution to this country that has been used for decades with success in North America and Europe,” Smith says.

“In the past, the lack of an economically viable and environmentally sustainable solution has led to utilising temporary storage systems in Australia, like landfill or in-situ storage, until a better solution comes along.

“Unlike such alternatives, the great part about us is that we can eliminate the dangerous impacts of hazardous waste and give positive assurance that disposal liability can be erased from a mining’s company’s balance sheet through the issuance of a Tellus Permanent Isolation Certificate.”

Sandy Ridge can expedite a mining company’s remediation process because it has pre-funded all its post-closure liabilities, while also having $100 million in pollution liability insurance.

There is next to no risk of liability coming back to haunt the waste owner once waste arrives on site.

The processes that underpin Sandy Ridge are intrinsically sustainable with its waste management techniques limiting its own burden on the environment.

“Alternatives for hazardous waste removal prior to Sandy Ridge opening could have been incineration, treatment or export of the most hazardous materials,” Smith says.

“However, those options have material downsides. They’re downsides because they’re volume-constrained, whereas we can initially accept up to 100,000 tonnes per annum, although our site could handle much larger volumes.

“They’re also energy-intensive, they create carbon dioxide and dioxin emissions, and a lot of the time they actually produce a more concentrated hazardous waste at the end.”

This is where Sandy Ridge comes to the fore. Smith says the operation is unique because of its world-class safety case, as well as the fact its backstopped by the Western Australia Government.

“The combination of our safety case and having the WA Government agree to monitor our site once it closes or if Tellus ever ceases to exist, actually allows us to give a positive assurance by issuing a Tellus Permanent Isolation Certificate, or Tellus PIC,” Smith says.

“The Tellus PIC is backed by ‘Big 4’ accounting advice that once we take risk and ownership of the waste, the former waste owner can totally wipe that liability off its balance sheet. That is meaningful and tangible value.”

Sandy Ridge can also accept nearly any type of waste in nearly any form. This includes everything from problematic mineral tailings to multi-contaminated soils, mercury, treated timbers, naturally occurring radioactive material (NORMs), surface contaminated equipment, lead and out-of-date or unwanted reagents.

Even more, most incoming waste types typically don’t require treatment. Tellus can manage the entire hazardous waste management process end-to-end. This means that once a mining company engages Tellus, it can focus solely on its core business, relieving it of any further responsibility for its hazardous waste.

Through Sandy Ridge, Tellus delivers the environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes to excite any miner eager to prove it is taking permanent steps to clean up Australia.