Virgin excavated natural material
Who is this page for?
This page is designed to help those who use, supply or generate excavated natural materials to correctly classify these materials. In particular, it provides information on the factors to consider when assessing whether material excavated from a site is able to be classified as ‘virgin excavated natural material’ (VENM).
This page should be read in conjunction with the following EPA publications:
Virgin excavated natural material
The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) defines VENM as: ‘natural material (such as clay, gravel, sand, soil or rock fines):
- that has been excavated or quarried from areas that are not contaminated with manufactured chemicals or process residues, as a result of industrial, commercial, mining or agricultural activities, and
- that does not contain any sulfidic ores or soils or any other waste.’
No other criteria for VENM have been approved. By definition, VENM cannot be ‘made’ from processed soils. Excavated material that has been stored or processed in any way cannot be classified as VENM.
Are manufactured chemicals or process residues likely to be present?
A material can only be classified as VENM if it has been excavated from an area that is not contaminated with other waste materials or manufactured chemicals.
Past land uses are a useful first indicator of likely contamination. The possibility that a previous land use has caused contamination of a site must be considered when assessing whether an excavated material is VENM.
Land uses that could result in contaminants being present in an excavated material include:
- acid/alkali plant and formulation
- agricultural/horticultural activities
- asbestos production and disposal
- chemicals manufacture and formulation
- defence works
- drum re-conditioning works
- dry cleaning establishments
- electrical manufacturing (transformers)
- electroplating and heat treatment premises
- engine works
- explosives industry
- gas works
- iron and steel works
- landfill sites
- metal treatment
- mining and extractive industries
- oil production and storage
- paint formulation and manufacture
- pesticide manufacture and formulation
- power stations
- railway yards
- scrap yards
- service stations
- sheep and cattle dips
- smelting and refining
- tanning and associated trades
- waste storage and treatment
- wood preservation
This list is not exhaustive and an excavated natural material may still be contaminated even where none of these activities have previously occurred on a site. Also activities not directly related to a site may lead to contamination: examples include diffuse sources of pollution, such as contaminated groundwater, that migrates under a site or dust settling out from industrial emissions.
Is chemical assessment necessary?
Classification as VENM requires certainty that the material concerned is not contaminated.
Where it is uncertain whether an excavated material can be classified as VENM, a chemical assessment can determine if the material is contaminated.
Note that the term ‘clean fill’ has no legal standing under the POEO Act or Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2005. Where an excavated material cannot be classified as VENM, it may be eligible for reuse under the ‘excavated natural material exemption 2008’.
Further information on this option is available in the resource recovery exemptions page of this website.
Under the POEO Act, it is an offence to supply false or misleading information to another person, including information about the type, classification, characteristics, composition or quantity of a waste. Significant penalties apply.
For further information on VENM, contact the EPA’s Waste Management Section on 131 555.
Page last updated: 12 July 2012