Mine waste water a concern ahead of wet season

Despite the heat wave wracking the nation, concerns have been raised over the management of mine waste water ahead of the wet season.

Despite the heat wave wracking the nation, concerns have been raised over the management of mine waste water ahead of the wet season.

The Queensland Government has begun consulting with miners in North Queensland over potential waste water releases, according to the Morning Bulletin.

Mine waster release has long been an issue in the city, and rose to a head following the Queensland floods which saw a large number of mines unintentionally release mine waste water into nearby river systems, or forced to release levels in excess of their agreed upon limits.

With many mines being hit by the DERM, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) called for changes to be made to the Environmental Protection Act.

By 4 December 2010, six mines notified the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) that they had breached environmental authority conditions.

By 6 January 2011 this had risen to 13 coal mines and 4 coal seam gas projects in the basins.

However, this was lower than in the 2009/10 wet season when more than 20 coal mines saw unauthorised water releases caused by heavy rainfalls.

During this time, the Department provided Transitional Environmental Programs (TEP) which allowed miners to temporarily operate outside of the environmental compliance codes until they could once more work within the relevant requirements.

But the QRC’s chief executive Michael Roche said there needed to be more done to help these mines get back on track and believed that existing environmental laws were not up to par for situations such as these floods.

"We do believe that there are flaws in the way the environmental authorities are framed across the Fitzroy Basin, but at the moment we are dealing with a here and now emergency," he said at the time.

"That's why the environmental authorities are really being set aside in favour of these transitional environmental programs."

Now the government is focusing on releases again, particularly at a nickel refinery in the state.

Yesterday DERM acting executive director Ingrid Forniatti Minnesma said it is engaging with miners regarding water management.

"Queensland Nickel has submitted a corrective action plan to EHP to address the water management issues at the site and this plan has been reviewed and comments have been provided back to Queensland Nickel," she said.

"Queensland Nickel submitted a draft Transitional Environmental Program (TEP) to EHP yesterday which proposed various actions to manage the risk of a release from the tailings storage facility. These actions include diverting storm water away from the tailings storage facility and constructing additional contaminated water storage capacity on site to reduce the spill risk in the future.

"The department is reviewing the TEP as a matter of priority. Queensland Nickel requires a permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) should it choose to use its ocean outfall pipeline."

It came after WWF called on state acting premier Jeff Seeney to act on what it called potentially environmentally disastrous accident waiting to happen at the Yabulu nicklel refinery.

These claims have previously been trashed by mining magnate Cliver Palmer, who owns the refinery.

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