Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce has slammed mines minister Stirling Hinchliffe for an about face following a funding boost for mine rehabilitation.
In April this year, Joyce raised concerns over the management of the closed Mt Morgan mine, especially the potential for the tailings dam and pit lake to contaminate the nearby Dee river system, claiming that “the risk had been seemingly neglected by the Queensland Labor Government”.
Joyce criticised environment minister Kate Jones and the handling of the mine, gaining a rebuke from Hinchliffe, who called the comments “irresponsible, scaremongering and blatant politicking”.
Earlier in the week, the State Government announced $24.4 million in funding to ensure the rehabilitation and safe management of old, closed Queensland mines.
Mining minister Stirling Hinchliffe stated that historic mines such as Mt Morgan and Mt Oxide are a legacy of old mining practices and need safe management.
“This is Government is committed to managing problems caused by past mining practices,” Hinchliffe said.
He went on to say that “problems with old and outdated mining practices were created over many years and will take many years to address but we won’t shy away from that.
“That’s why we’re investing a further $24.2 million over four years for mine management and rehabilitation, $6 million of this operational and capital funding will be invested during 2011-12.”
Following these statements, Joyce has come out saying that “minister Hinchliffe has changed his tune”.
“Far be it for me to say to minister Hinchliffe, I told you so, but thankfully now they are doing something,” Joyce stated.
“As I said back in April, it is problems like these facing the environment that we can fix and should fix immediately and leave alone the ones that are simply a spurious means of balancing the Labor party’s books by taxing the air we breathe.”
However, Hinchliffe has previously rebutted Joyce’s claims over a potential contamination, saying “there has never been an uncontrolled spill of water from the open cut pit in the mine’s history”.
He went on to say that there were two controlled releases were carried out in March this year, after the public were first informed.
“The water in the open cut pit is not toxic or poisonous and while it contains elevated levels of copper, aluminium, magnesium and other metals along with sulphate salts, these occur naturally.
“While mining practices and regulations have changed meaning companies are now required to rehabilitate land when mining operations wind up, we want to work with the industry to ensure legacy issues can be dealt with well into the future,” he said.
Pit lake rehabilitation is a growing issue in mining as many former open cut pits are now filled with water during the rehabilitation process.
Metals and acids can leak into the ground water, which then acts as a transport mechanism to move them off the lease.
Studies are currently ongoing into the best way to rehabilitate pit lakes and provide potential future use for them.