Mines under investigation for dumping water into rivers

Rio Tinto's Kestrel mine is one of six being investigated by the State Government.
Rio Tinto's Kestrel mine is one of six being investigated by the State Government. MCP

AT LEAST six coal mines, including one owned by the Chinese Government, are being investigated by the State Government for dumping water into Central Queensland rivers without permission as flooding rains swept the region.

The Observer can reveal in January alone, two mines owned by Rio Tinto, one by Anglo American and a trio of smaller operators landed in the crosshairs of the state's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, accused of releasing mine water in breach of environmental conditions.

In total, 30 coal mines in the Bowen Basin region - north-west of Rockhampton - released millions of litres of water from their sites.

Most were deemed "compliant" by the state, as these discharges fell within guidelines set by the government. Six were not.

On January 29, Environment Minister Andrew Powell's office released a statement saying mine water made up roughly one-third of 1% of the Fitzroy River - as water in its trillions of litres diluted discharges from mines.

Mr Powell said 5710 mega litres - or 5.71 billion litres - of water was "mine affected" on that Tuesday, a "drop in the ocean" compared to the three trillion litres that washed it out to sea.

The water releases, he said, were being closely watched by the departments for both Environment and Mines.

On the day of Mr Powell's statement, a spokesman for the Department of Environment told APN the state was yet to learn how much water was released from at least one mine when its dam apparently overflowed into 30 Mile Creek.

The spokesman said although the department was seeking more information from the mine, it "does not anticipate any adverse environmental impacts as a result of the release" but would conduct an investigation.

Later that week, the department released to APN a list of mines now being investigated for "non-compliant" releases of mine water, including:

  • Middlemount Coal Mine, owned by Peabody
  • German Creek Mine, Anglo American
  • Hail Creek Mine, Rio Tinto
  • Kestrel Mine, Rio Tinto
  • Minerva mine, Sojitz
  • Yarrabee Mine, Yancoal. Yancoal is a subsidiary of Yankuang Group - a coal company owned by the Chinese Government.

Department of Environment's Deputy Director-General Dean Ellwood said mines would face "appropriate enforcement action" if they were found to have broken environmental rules.

Topics:  central queensland coal mining mine water discharge mining rio tinto state government

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