Waratah Coal’s rehabilitation efforts fail ‘environmental duty’

Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal has been slapped with an Environmental Protection Order over failures to meet its environmental duty to rehabilitate almost 300 exploration holes drilled on private properties.

Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection issued the EPO on Tuesday on the grounds that Waratah coal didn’t “take all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or minimise harm”.

The company has been involved in exploration activities in the Alpha region in Central Queensland since August 2009.

The Environment Department said it has been fielding complaints from landholders since late 2010 around exploration activities said to be affecting groundwater and bores.

The EPO states complaints include possible aquifer contamination, reduced water flow and levels in some private bores and a lack of drill hole rehabilitation.

In April this year the department wrote a letter to Waratah stating that it was of the belief the company is not fulfilling its obligations under the general environmental duty requirements, advising enforcement measures will be exercised if a written response was not received by May 10.

Waratah provided a response six days after the deadline advising that exploration bore and drill hole decommissioning will commence once access negotiations are finalised.

In September the department requested information from Waratah about how many bore and drill holes had been decommissioned in the Alpha area over the past 12 months.

The company stated that only EIS related work had been completed over this period.

This week it came to the Environment Department’s attention that access negotiations are yet to be finalised and in the EPO it stated that it “is not aware of any rehabilitation or decommissioning of exploration/drill holes that has been undertaken by Waratah”.

In response to the EPO, Waratah Coal issued a statement saying it hasbeen working closely with state regulators and a landholder to finalise rehabilitation activities over one property near Alpha township”.

Setting a deadline of June 30, the EPO requires Waratah to finalise the decommissioning of all exploration holes on EPC 1040.

If the exploration bores are needed for the company’s groundwater monitoring purposes it must convert the holes to meet the water bore code.

Waratah coal must also provide the department with details of all exploration activities on the exploration tenement.

The maximum penalty for a corporation failing to comply with the EPO is 10,000 penalty units, totalling $1.1 million.

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