Mount Isa Mine - Lead and air quality monitoring

Background and regulation

The Mount Isa Mine has been in operation since the mid-1920s with smelting commencing in the 1930s. The operations in Mount Isa are extensive and include underground and open cut copper and lead-silver-zinc mines, ore concentrators, tailings dams, lead and copper smelters, a power station, and related facilities on the single mining lease.

The Mount Isa Mine previously operated under the Mount Isa Mines Limited Agreement Act 1985. Legislation passed in 2008 provided a three-year period for mining companies operating under special agreement acts, including the Mount Isa Mines operation, to transition to environmental regulation under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

In 2011, the former Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) issued an environmental authority (EA) for the mine under the Environmental Protection Act 1994. The EA contains contemporary environmental standards in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and subordinate legislation.

The current EA includes conditions to achieve a progressive reduction of air emissions from the site and ensure community information programs are in place which inform the community of the risk from exposure to sulfur dioxide and other significant contaminants. Mount Isa Mines has information regarding air quality available via a smart phone application and its online portal. Information regarding both is available the Mount Isa Mines website.

Health risk management

Mount Isa Lead Health Management Committee

In 2012, Queensland Government’s Minister for Health formed the Mount Isa Lead Health Management Committee to oversee lead health management in Mount Isa. The Mount Isa Lead Health Management Committee, chaired by Queensland Health’s Chief Health Officer, is comprised of Federal, State and local politicians, as well as industry and other government departments, including the department. The primary function of this Committee is to provide a consultative decision-making forum to effectively address health risks arising from environmental exposure to lead and other airborne contaminants to the residents of Mount Isa, specifically young children (less than 5 years of age).

This Committee also oversees the Mount Isa based Lead Alliance (formerly the Living with Lead Alliance) to which DES is also a partner. The aim of the Lead Alliance is to minimise community lead exposure in Mount Isa through community education and driving behavioural changes, highlighting the importance of following safe hygienic practices. More information on the Lead Alliance is available at The Lead Alliance website.

Lead and air quality monitoring

Mount Isa Mines operations have a number of sources of emissions to air, including the lead smelter stack, copper smelter stack, and fugitive emissions from mining, ore transport, ore preparation, sintering and smelting operations, and waste disposal. The acid plant and various industrial activities are also sources of emissions to the air in Mount Isa.

The ambient air quality limit for lead and other contaminants are set in the company’s environmental authority. The limit for lead (particulate matter) requires that the company shall not exceed an annual average of 0.5µg/m3 (measured as the total metal content in total suspended particulates) in a calendar year at any commercial or sensitive place.

Mount Isa Mines is also required through its EA to operate an extensive network of air quality monitoring stations across Mount Isa.

It operates 12 compliance air quality monitoring stations across the area. Seven of these stations are required to monitor heavy metals, including lead.

In addition, the Department of Environment and Science operates one monitoring station in Mount Isa to monitor air quality.

Monitoring data is available via the following links:

Downloads and reports

Various reports regarding the history and operation of Mount Isa Mines are available from Mount Isa Mines and The Lead Alliance websites.