Creating economic, social and environmental value from waste, clay and salt resources  

  Sandy Ridge Project  
Sandy Ridge Facility
Stage of development

Tellus has commenced stage one enabling works in February 2019, which will be followed by stage two construction starting in June 2019, in line with approvals. Surface storage operations are expected to start before the end of the year and underground permanent isolation (disposal) operations in early 2020.


Sandy Ridge is Australia’s first dual open-cut kaolin mine and arid near-surface geological waste repository in a 70-million-year-old kaolin clay bed which is located 240 kilometres by road west north west of Kalgoorlie.

Project life

An initial 25-year operating licence, but with the potential for multiple generations with rolling approval extensions. It has the potential to be WA’s longest life project.

About geological repositories

Geological repositories have been operating successfully in Europe (since the 1970s), the UK, North America, Africa and South America. They are viewed as world’s best practice to store and/or permanently isolate hazardous waste and Low Level Radioactive Waste (“LLW”) from the biosphere.

Geological repositories are facilities that can offer long term storage, treatment, recovery and permanent isolation of equipment and hazardous waste services. Geological repositories provide the highest level of containment for hazardous waste (chemical waste) and low-level radioactive waste (LLW) isolating them from the biosphere over geological time (hundreds of thousands to millions of years). This is achieved through a combination of carefully selected active control (man-made engineered barriers like packaging, treatment and cell construction) and passive control (natural barriers) measures. This is known as a multi-barrier system.

The key difference between a landfill and a geological repository is that a landfill only relies on the man-made barriers, that ultimately fail over time, while a geological repository relies on the natural barriers (eg. dry, stable, thick, flat clay or salt formation) that provide containment over geological time. Geological repositories do not require ongoing monitoring after the institutional control period as they are passively safe. By storing like with like for safety reasons, this creates an opportunity for future recycling or recovery of valuable materials.

Multi barrier safety case

Tellus’ safety case relies on multiple fail-safe mechanisms (man-made and natural barriers) but the best barrier of them all are the natural barriers with their passive control mechanism. In other words, the carefully selected site (remote, limited land use), geology (host clay or salt rock with low permeability and erosion rates), environment (semi-arid area and separated from ground water), seismic characteristics (geologically stable and low earthquake risk) which does not require ongoing monitoring is the fundamental property of geological waste repositories, which remain passively safe through geological time.

Tellus’ Sandy Ridge site selection and design processes have been confirmed by independent experts as credible and as representing best practice.

Site selection

The location of the Facility has been specifically chosen for its natural characteristics which are aligned with the IAEA” requirements (site selection criteria) and global best practice standards for a near surface geological repository.

Tellus completed comprehensive site investigations including four drilling programs commissioned by Tellus to support project approvals and technical studies. These included:
  • 4 drilling programs (drilled 324 holes and 10,122m)
  • Water investigation drilling program and monitoring bores
  • Installing an automatic weather station
  • Building a 39t kaolin pilot plant that produced 9t of processed kaolin
  • Expression of Interests received for kaolin buyers from 7 Asian countries
  • Tellus signed kaolin market development agreement with AMR (HK)
  • Kaolin immobilisation trials (hydrocarbons, PFAS, PCB/HCB).
  • Multiple field studies
  • Multiple international benchmark studies.
The WA EPA Report 1611 also recognised that site selection is the most critical consideration for a near-surface geological waste repository and agreed that the proposed site’s characteristics of geological stability, deep impermeable clay soils, low rainfall, low land erosion potential and remoteness make it conditionally-suitable for a near-surface geological waste repository. The Sandy Ridge site is adjacent (7 km) to the WA government owned IWDF which has a safe 27-year operating history and that Tellus has been involved in through ClayVault WA (project manager of IWDF).

Facility capacity

Tellus has approval over 25 years to:
  • Mine up to 290,000 tpa of kaolin clay; and
  • Receive up to 100,000 tpa of Class IV and V waste (“hazardous waste”) at the facility gate, subject to licence conditions
  • Build a 40,000 tonnes kaolin clay plant (within 5 years). The kaolin clay can be used in environmental, plant & ceramics markets
  • Tellus plans to build a circular economy park at Sandy Ridge to recover valuable materials, the technologies used will be dependent on the waste received and the technical and economic viability and will be subject to an additional approval process.
  • 100 jobs during the construction phase; and
  • 80 jobs at peak operational manning supported by a 71-man accommodation camp
  • Tellus has a policy of buying local and hiring local (where possible).
Approvals status

Tellus has received the following main approvals:
  • Australian Government approval in January 2019 under the EPBC Act
  • WA Environmental Ministerial approval in June 2018 under the Environmental Protections Act
  • WA EPA approval in December 2017 recommending the Minister approves the project under the Environmental Protections Act
  • Host of minor regulatory approvals required for the development.
Government recognition
  • Tellus’ Sandy Ridge and Chandler geological repositories are the only waste facilities in Australia that have been awarded Major Project Facilitation (MPF) status by the Australian Government in April 2017.
  • The Clayvault 50/50 Tellus/Aurora JV manages the only other geolgical repository in Australia, viz. IWDF, which is owned by the WA Government.
Community engagement

Tellus has held hundreds of stakeholder engagement meetings across government in Canberra, Perth and local government, politicians, neighbours, indigenous and local communities in Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Boulder, Koolyanobbing and Southern Cross.

About hazardous waste

In its simplest definition, hazardous waste is waste that can harm the environment or human health and therefore should be removed from the biosphere where it can pose a threat.

Australia is one of the highest emitters of hazardous waste per capita. Approximately 10% of Australian reported waste is classified as hazardous (by volume).

Annual hazardous waste production in 2015 was approx. 45 M tpa, with only 5.3 M tpa reported and entering the waste market. The legacy hazardous waste stockpile in Australia is 1 Billion tonnes and growing. There is insufficient infrastructure at competitive price points to permanently solve the problem or recover valuable materials.

Sandy Ridge’s waste acceptance criteria

The majority is chemical waste from a broad spectrum of industrial sectors, including mining, oil and gas, contaminated site remediation, and utilities, along with a small amount of low level (LLW) Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and low level Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources (DSRS).

Tellus’ Sandy Ridge facility will not accept any nuclear waste, or waste streams falling under intermediate (ILW) or high level (HLW) radioactive waste designations.

Sandy Ridge will be a State Emergency Services facility that can take diverse waste types from man-made and natural disasters.

Waste acceptance jurisdiction

Only wastes generated within WA, other Australian States and Territories, and the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone can be accepted, subject to meeting the facility’s waste acceptance criteria.


The site is accessed from the Great Eastern Highway via the existing 95 km Mt Walton road. Tellus has commenced improving the existing intersection, railway crossing and the construction of a new 9 km access road to the site gatehouse. The site is located near the Kalgoorlie to Perth railway, roads and the Kalgoorlie mining service hub.

Mine type
  • Type – Open-cut mining
  • Conventional open-pit for kaolin mining. The void left over for mining is then converted into a cell for hazardous waste that stored in sperate “like with like” zones and with mobile roof (air dome) over the top.
  • Method in pit – continuous miner to break silcrete layer, then backhoe and dump truck to remove ore
  • All weather (waste placement under air dome), available 365 days a year
  • Once the cell is fill, it will be backfilled, capped, rehabilitated and monitored during an institutional control period (ICP).
National hub and spoke logistical footprint

Tellus has a strategic agreement with Toll Group that provides a national hub and spoke logistical footprint.

Assurance and insurance

Tellus has an established and costed assurance framework and insurance policies following extensive government consultation and international peer review.

Tellus commissioned UK based firm Eden to independently review Tellus’ proposed financial assurance framework and provisions at Sandy Ridge. The review was commissioned to provide a confidence in the Sandy Ridge framework and to provide the WA Government Departments with added comfort that the framework proposed by Tellus for Sandy Ridge is appropriate for a facility of this type.

The review confirmed that the design of Sandy Ridge is technically excellent, and the Facility is generally a low risk facility which is expected to perform very well. The proposed financial assurance framework at Sandy Ridge is considered appropriate both in terms of its quantum and structure.

Independent technical reviews

An independent international technical review of Sandy Ridge by Eden (UK) concluded that, on the basis of knowledge of other disposal facilities worldwide:
  • “The design of the Facility is excellent;
  • The proposed multibarrier system offers very good prospects of excellent long-term performance that can protect the environment and human health; and
  • Performance outcomes are either comparable or superior to the many other analogous disposal facilities in other countries”
The independent technical diligence undertaken by Wood on Sandy Ridge (UK hazardous waste and geological repository experts) confirmed:
  • Tellus’ Public Environmental Review (“PER”) and BFS are professional and the project is technically sound; and
  • no 'show stoppers' had been identified nor had any fundamental technical or safety concerns, and they see no reason why the project could not be implemented as described
  RETURN TO TOP Return to Top