Miners face anger over water discharges

 Queensland miners and the DERM are facing community ire over water discharges.

Late last month, the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) began investigating alleged water releases into the Fitzroy Catchment.

The DERM’s mine operations general manager Andrew Connor announced that action would be carried out regarding 12 mines that had 19 separate water discharges.

"Following the recent heavy rain some releases have occurred outside of their licensed conditions, however, most mines were releasing into very high volumes of water, which means there is a low risk of environmental harm," he said.

BMA’s Saraji coal mine and Anglo American’s Capcoal mine were identified as two mines that had breached the laws governing discharges.

Local towns were up in arms following the announcement, claiming that they had not been informed of the discharges and raised concerns over their effect.

According to the Morning Bulletin, the community was not told about the incidents until the paper made enquiries.

Queensland‘s environment minister Vicky Darling said "these discharges were not publicly reported as DERM considered them minor breaches with no impact on water quality.

"I’ve listened to concerns from [the candidates for Rockhampton] Paul Hoolihan and Bill Byrne and asked my department to look at how it notifies the public about mine-water discharges.

"DERM will now notify the public about all mine discharges that are unauthorised or outside any company’s approvals in the Fitzroy Basin."

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) says that miners have nothing to fear from the full reporting of water discharges, as they have been following proper reporting guidelines.

"The QRC and its members welcome such information being published on the DERM Fitzroy River website and are hoping that it will occur as soon as tomorrow," QRC chief Roche said.

"It should be clear from DERM’s reporting of 14 Fitzroy Basin mines making 25 separate water releases over the past two weeks that the regulator has been informed of the facts promptly.

"This includes two minor instances of non-compliant release (from Saraji and Capcoal), which DERM has advised did not compromise water quality."

He went on to say the public does not have to worry over the impact the discharges have on Fitzroy River or the quality of drinking water.

Roche added that it was important to remember that the mines are not discharging water right now.

"Rather, 14 mines have made some discharges over that time for brief and/or intermittent periods.

"All discharges are governed by pre-approved rules administered on a mine-by-mine basis."

During the floods of 2010/11, mines in the region discharged around 200 000 megalitres of water into the Fitzroy Basin, approximately .5% of the 38 megalitres that flowed down the river out to sea.


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