A mine rehabilitation reform campaign has recommended the introduction of an independent authority to rehabilitate abandoned mine sites, which could create thousands of jobs in mining precincts that were badly affected by the downturn.
According to a leaked Queensland Government report, tax payers will be forced to pay $3.2 billion in coal mine rehabilitation costs because the current financial assurance system is not covering the full cost of mine rehabilitation. The report shows that not only are the financial bonds held by coal companies inadequate to rehabilitate sites, but on-ground progressive rehabilitation is in decline.
“The report is a terrible indictment on the Queensland Government, who have failed to properly protect taxpayers and who have allowed big coal to rort the rehabilitation system to the tune of $3.2 billion,” said Rick Humphries, coordinator of Lock the Gate’s Mine Rehabilitation Reform Campaign.
“When mining companies dodge their clean up responsibilities, we’re all left to pay more, and our community pays the cost of poorer schools and underfunded hospitals.”
The group has called for the introduction of an independent authority to rehabilitate abandoned mine sites (of which there are 15,000 in Queensland alone). It proposes funding this with a “modest industry levy” or from the interest on a new cash bond deposit system.
“There’s several thousand jobs that can be created in rural and regional Queensland, particularly in mining precincts that are badly needed now after the downturn,” Humphries told the ABC.
“So it will be an employment generator and an economic activity generator.”
However, Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham noted that many old mines still contain valuable resources that could be exploited.
“There are a lot of resources left in old tailing dams, old tailing deposits,” he told the ABC.
“Rehabilitation can extinguish a resource.”
He added that certain abandoned mines could be transformed into sites for renewable energy projects, like the old Kidston gold mine north west of Townsville.
According to the minister, the tailings area will be a solar farm supplying peak demand power for Townsville, and during the day this power will go not only to Townsville, but it will also pump water from the bottom pit to the top pit. At night time, this water will flow down through a turbine and produce hydroelectricity.