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Northern Territory government under fire over toxic dump at Glencore zinc mine

Australia's Northern Territory government is being criticized over a claim that no report exists from an investigation into an accidental dump of toxic waste in 2016 from Glencore Plc's McArthur River zinc-lead-silver mine, The Guardian reported Dec. 22.

The operating company of the mine, McArthur River Mining, aims to expand the operation beyond the current end date of 2018, and the related draft environmental impact statement covered the waste dump, indicating that about 14,000 tonnes of reactive waste rock had been mistaken for less harmful material and dumped in a less secure waste facility.

The toxic material combusted and began emitting sulfur dioxide, and the waste continues to be an issue at the site with long-term containment a key concern, according to an independent monitor.

The Northern Territory government refused to publish the details of its 2016 investigation into the incident, saying the findings were delivered verbally. Environmental groups claim the lack of transparency over the incident shows that the government is unable to properly regulate the mining operation.

Armando Padovan, head of Northern Territory's Department of Primary Industry and Resources, told media Dec. 21 that there was no evidence of damage to the water system and the release of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere was the main impact. Padovan also said he did not know how long sulfur dioxide had been emitted but the risk of it reoccurring had been "greatly reduced."