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Nine coal mines may have breached environmental rules

Environment Minister Andrew Powell told APN he took the issue of mine breaches seriously but there was no data suggesting environmental harm.
Environment Minister Andrew Powell told APN he took the issue of mine breaches seriously but there was no data suggesting environmental harm. Chris Ison

A TOTAL of nine Central Queensland coal mines have now been accused of breaching environmental conditions after dumping affected water into rivers and streams this year.

Many were inundated as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald delivered flooding rains across much of the state in January.

It brings the total of "non-compliant" mine water releases since 2010 to 86, each pumping into the Fitzroy Catchment which flows through the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton.

The Opposition is now demanding an independent assessment of mine water releases as the government emphasises that no damage has been done.

Of the nine coal mines in the crosshairs of the Department of Environment, two were found to have broken the rules set out in government approvals.

Rio Tinto's Hail Creek Mine was given a $2800 penalty while the Sojitz Minerva mine escaped with just a warning.

APN reported earlier this month the Department of Environment discouraged officers from using heavier-handed penalties.

American multinational Peabody has three mines on the list, including Middlemount, Coppabella and North Goonyella, Rio Tinto Kestrel is included and so is Yancoal's Yarabee - a mine owned by the Chinese Government.

Anglo American has two mines accused of breaking its water release rules with German Creek and Callide which both released water for 22 days straight.

These figures only cover mines releasing water in breach of environmental protocols.In January alone, up to 30 mines pumped billions of litres of mine water from sites into rivers and streams of the Fitzroy catchment but were considered compliant.

Although water quality results will not be known until later this week, Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said it showed these discharges were not "planned, executed or monitored properly" by the government.

She said the number of workers, including those in charge of monitoring water in the Fitzroy, had been drastically reduced and new laws introduced late last year lowered environmental standards.

Ms Trad called for a group of experts - including locals from the Fitzroy region - to be convened and work to ensure mine water posed no threat to farmers and residents.

Department of Environment Deputy Director-General Dean Ellwood said the mines were under investigation for a range of reasons including not telling the government soon enough after releasing the water, and cases of water overflowing or being pumped from mines into streams flowing too slow to be allowed.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell told APN he took the issue of mine breaches seriously but there was no data suggesting environmental harm.

Mr Powell said the combined impact of these mine discharges were "heavily monitored" and he was confident they were within appropriate levels.

When asked if he viewed these releases as a problem, he re-stated that he was taking the issue seriously.

Topics:  breach coal mines environment



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