- Incident Date
- 19 August 2022
- Locations Affected
- North West region
About the incident
Since May 2021, EPA has received reports alleging low frequency noise coming from the site of the Fosterville Gold Mine. This is located near Axedale in the City of Greater Bendigo. We've conducted several investigations. This included noise monitoring and analysis. EPA was able to identify the presence of a low frequency noise issue within the community.
Subsequently, EPA started issuing notice(s) to the mine to further investigate. Furthermore, EPA issued two Prohibition Notices to cease certain activities immediately. These Prohibition Notices are still in place today.
Regulatory roles with respect to mining and quarryingEarth Resources Regulation (ERR) is Victoria’s regulator of exploration, mining, quarrying, petroleum, recreational prospecting and other earth resources activities. Under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA), ERR assess and approve licence applications, investigate and act on compliance issues in line with approved work plans and conditions and licence conditions, and ensure risks to environment, land, infrastructure and public safety are managed as far as practicable.
ERR regulates activities and environmental issues associated with a mine or quarry, as per the approved work plan and MRSDA. For example, noise from mining operations is regulated by ERR in accordance with the mine site’s approved work plan. Noise levels and hours of mining activities are prescribed in a mine operators’ licence conditions, work plan and/or planning permission.
Low frequency noise limits are not specified in work plans. However operators must adhere to ‘Noise guidelines: assessing low frequency noise’ (EPA publication 1996) to minimise unreasonable noise.
EPA is the primary regulator of water discharges into surface or groundwater from mining and quarrying industries. EPA is also a referral authority, which includes providing advice on air quality and noise emissions. EPA also has an increased role in mining referrals from other government agencies.
Our role: compliance and enforcement
As Victoria’s environmental regulator, EPA’s role at the Fosterville Gold Mine site is to enforce the Environment Protection Act (2017) (the Act), where the issue sits outside the regulatory role of ERR.
Under the Act, EPA can require Fosterville Gold Mine to take steps to reduce noise, so far as reasonably practicable.
When we make decisions under the Act, we are guided by the principles of environment protection. Our decisions also give regard to human rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
What has EPA done about low frequency noise reportsWe have issued three remedial notices and two Prohibition Notices. Compliance with the requirements of the remedial notices have been achieved. The remedial notices have helped locate the pieces of plant and equipment that may be the source of low frequency noise. The notices have also identified the works that can be taken to address the issue.
While the works are being progressed, EPA is requiring through the Prohibition Notices that the:
- surface drill rigs in the southern part of the mine do not operate between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am
- southern surface ventilation system fans do not operate above 400rpm between midnight and 6:00 am.
Noise monitoring and analysis undertaken by EPA shows the Prohibition Notices have reduced low frequency noise within the area during these times.
What is EPA doing to monitor the siteWe are continuing to work with ERR, as well as monitoring the site, through inspections, and gathering noise data to check compliance with the Prohibition Notices.
We will continue to visit the site to:
- assess practices and works being undertaken to address noise
- make recommendations
- require further improvements through notices, if necessary.
Fosterville Gold Mine has approval from EPA to conduct a short-term noise trial. This will put a pause on the Prohibition Notice relating to the operation of the southern surface ventilation system. The trial is to test large alterations to key infrastructure to reduce low frequency noise in the area. The trial will be during February and March 2023.
We will continue to check the site. We can bring back the terms of the notices if the trial does not have the desired outcomes. For more information, visit Fosterville Gold Mine Environmental Management.
Report noise, including low frequency noise, by calling us on 1300 372 842. We’re here 24 hours, 7 days a week.
When you make a noise report to EPA, provide as much detail as possible:
- your name and address
- the time and duration you first experienced the noise on the day
- description of the noise.
If your report is about blasting, vibration or mine-induced seismicity, these matters are regulated by ERR:
- It can be reported to ERR via their online form
- Call 1300 366 356
- Email ERRFeedback@ecodev.vic.gov.au
- Visit ERR, Fosterville Gold Mine.
If your report relates to residential noise, this may also be reported to Greater Bendigo City Council. The report can be lodged via phone 1300 002 642 or email email@example.com
The City will investigate to determine whether the noise presents a statutory nuisance as defined in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 . This Act and the duty to investigate reports of alleged nuisance are administered by local councils across Victoria, in this case the Greater Bendigo City Council.
A statutory nuisance under these circumstances is defined as dangerous to health, noxious or injurious.
Reviewed 3 February 2023