NORSK Hydro will spend the next two years trying to sell a plan to store about 350,000 tonnes of contaminated material on the site of the former Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter as part of a long-term plan to spend $50-$100 million transforming the site into a major residential and industrial development.
Hydro announced in May that the smelter would remain shut permanently, and on Friday managing director Richard Brown told media the company had put the wheels in motion on a five to 10-year plan to sell the deserted 2000-hectare site.
Mr Brown told media the company had opted to create a four to five-hectare "containment cell", similar to the one being used at the former Pasminco zinc smelter in Boolaroo, to control the 350-odd thousand tonnes of contaminated materials, including spent pot liner and other toxic waste, on the site.
The process would include shifting the existing capped waste stockpile - a large mound containing about 189,000 tonnes of contaminate known by locals as Mount Alcan - to the other side of the site.
Although only at the beginning of what's expected to be a two-year approval process, member for the Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon has called on the state government to "immediately reject" the proposal.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the plan amounted to using "landfill" and would "send a chill down the spine of every Hunter resident".
"This is highly toxic material and the only way to safely dispose of it is to reprocess it in a government-approved facility," he said.
"This is nothing more than a cost-saving measure."
Mr Brown acknowledged the plan was "one of the cheaper options" but denied it was about cost saving.
The smelter once boasted more than 600 workers, but under the plan the vast majority of the site would be divided into about 377 hectares of employment land, 218 hectares of residential land and 734 hectares of conservation land.
Mr Brown said he hoped in the future it would be able to host "that many and I believe more" jobs.
"The closure was the down point of this site [but] now with this phase we're starting to see another up phase beginning," he said.
The size and scope of the project means it will be classed as state significant, and soon the company will formally approach the secretary of environmental assessment for requirements around an environmental impact statement.