New laws passed by Queensland Parliament will repeal the special status granted to some mining companies going back to the Bjelke-Petersen Government which made them exempt from environmental protection legislation.
The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 will ensure nine mining sites covered for decades by special acts of Parliament comply with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act.
Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation Andrew McNamara said the sites represent some of the largest mining operations in the State and include coal mining operations in Central Queensland, bauxite mining on Cape York Peninsula and the mining operations at Mount Isa.
“Caring for our environment and managing our resources for future generations is an important task,” McNamara said.
“This Bill makes it possible for us to benefit from the use of our natural resources as well as protect the environment on all mining sites in Queensland.
“The special agreement Acts are unique to each site, and cover all issues relating to the carrying out of mining activities including some environmental requirements.
“The Acts were drafted at a time when the economic conditions were different, and when the Government of the day felt that it needed to give greater certainty to the mining companies, given the scale of capital investment the mines required.
“However, over the last 50 years, the demand for minerals and the scale of mining operations has increased world wide.
“Simultaneously, the community’s understanding of environmental issues has increased.
“This Bill will ensure that these mines operate under the same environmental standards that apply to the other 1200 mines throughout Queensland.”
The nine sites covered under the new Bill are Mount Isa, Weipa, Peak Downs, Goonyella, Norwich Park, Saraji, Moura, Greenvale and Ely.
McNamara said the Bill applies contemporary environmental standards without disadvantaging the mining companies.
“Importantly, the Bill does not affect any other aspects of the special agreement Acts, and will not affect the right to mine,” he said.
In recognition of the time and costs potentially involved to modify some larger operations, mine sites will have three years to transition to the new arrangements.