Rio Tinto fined for environmental infringement

Mining giant Rio Tinto has been fined for a breach of environmental regulations while releasing water from its Hail Creek mine during recent floods.

Located in Central Queensland, about 120 kilometres south of Mackay the mine supplies steel mills in Asia and Europe with up to eight million tonnes of hard coking coal per annum.

Rio Tinto spokesman Graham Witherspoon told Australian Mining that the water release happened after heavy rainfall and was the result of a failure in monitoring equipment.

“Once this became apparent, we acted immediately to stop the release and water did not leave the mining lease boundary,” Witherspoon said.

He explained that Rio Tinto Coal Australia has a very good compliance history and comprehensive water management plans are in place at all of the company’s operations.

"This release did not meet our own high standards for environmental management and we have taken steps to prevent a repeat including replacing the faulty equipment, updating release procedures and equipment failure contingency plans, as well as working closely with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection through its investigations,” he said.

In January, Australian Mining reported that the widespread flooding had created a major problem for the state's mining industry.

There was record rain fall across much of central Queensland and around 20 mines were reported to be discharging water into local rivers with the permission of the Queensland government.

There was also an uncontrolled release of water from the highly toxic decommissioned Mount Morgan gold mine.

Closed in 1981 the mine is located about 40 kilometres south of Rockhampton on the Dee River and is currently managed by the state government.

The Queensland government said at the time that the strong water flows through the Dee River had significantly diluted the untreated water and minimised potential downstream impacts.

More to come.