MAC: Mines and Communities

Queensland mining companies face water contamination charges

Published by MAC on 2010-01-19
Source: ABC, AAP (2010-01-14)

Australian regulators have now responded to tailings and mine water pond failures during heavy floods early last year in Queensland.

MMG Century has been charged with causing serious environmental harm, while Birla Mt Gordon (a subsidiary of India's Hindalco) is accused of storing excessive quantities of contaminated water on-site.

Qld mining companies face environment charges

By Meera Nambiar, ABC Network

14 January 2010

Two mining companies in north-west Queensland face charges over alleged environmental damage caused by their water management.

Acting Sustainability Minister Andrew Fraser says MMG Century Limited, north of Mount Isa, has been charged with causing serious environmental harm.

It is alleged the zinc mine discharged contaminated waste water into waterways during the last wet season.

North-west Queensland copper mine, Birla Mt Gordon, has been charged with storing excessive amounts of contaminated water on-site.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management has issued statutory notices requiring the mine sites to investigate the cause of the discharges, the suitability of their current water management practices and the potential for improvements.

The department's assistant director general Dean Ellwood says the mines were not the only two to be investigated, but they will be the first to appear in court in Queensland for enviornmental harm.

"We have only laid the charges at this stage - the court process will then take over as far as what each of those two companies choose to do," he said.

"They may wish to contest the matters or they may wish to plead guilty to it, so I guess they are innocent until proven guilty.

"Certainly we are confident in what we have done to date about the charges that we have laid."


MMG, Birla face waste water contamination charges

AAP

14 January 2010

TWO mining companies in north-west Queensland face charges over their alleged mismanagement of contaminated waste water.

MMG Century Limited, which operates the world's second largest zinc mine north-west of Mount Isa, has been charged with causing serious environmental harm by discharging contaminated waste water into waterways during the heavy wet season in 2009, the Queensland Government said.

Birla Mt Gordon's charges relate to continuing to store excessive amounts of contaminated water on the site of its copper mine.

MMG Century allegedly discharged waste water into Page Creek, a protected "wild river" area near Lawn Hill National Park.

Contaminants including electrical conductivity, cadmium, zinc and dissolved sulphate were released into the waterways.

The company faces charges for contravening a condition of an environmental authority and for unlawfully causing serious environmental harm and is facing a maximum penalty of $832,500 for each offence.

In addition to the possible penalty, MMG Century has already spent more than $300,000 on clean-up actions.

Birla Mt Gordon has previously been issued with two environmental protection orders and two penalty infringement notices.

The company has been charged with failing to comply with a 2006 court order after numerous government attempts to get the mine to clean up its act and will face a maximum fine of $1.5 million for breaching the order.

Queensland's acting environment minister Andrew Fraser said these were not the only two mines being investigated.

"The extraordinary rainfall in north-west Queensland early in 2009 made it clear that a large number of mines were not adequately prepared," Mr Fraser said.

"The heavy rain and flooding resulted in discharges from a number of mine sites and while not all discharges exceeded licence limits or resulted in downstream impacts, remediation is under way on up to seven mine sites that had off-site impacts."

"These charges are a stern reminder to the mining industry that disregarding environmental obligations is not acceptable."

General manager of MMG Century Limited, Karl Spaleck, said the polluted area had been cleaned up to the satisfaction of the Government.

Mr Spaleck said he could not comment on how the company would plead when the matter goes to court next month.


MMG Century and Birla Mt Gordon charged over wastewater

Patrick Lion, http://www.news.com.au

15 January 2010

TWO mining companies are facing millions of dollars in fines after being charged over environmental harm issues involving projects in northwest Queensland, including a wild rivers area.

MMG Century and Birla Mt Gordon have been hit with charges relating to alleged waste water contamination incidents as part of a State Government crackdown following widespread flooding across remote parts of the state.

Another seven mine sites are undergoing remediation work over similar issues.

MMG Century allegedly discharged contaminated waste water from its Century zinc mine, northwest of Mount Isa, into a protected wild river area near Lawn Hill National Park.

The water allegedly had electrical conductivity and included cadmium, zinc and dissolved sulphate.

The company is facing a $832,500 penalty for each of two offences after being charged with contravening a condition of an environmental authority and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm.

Birla Mt Gordon is facing a $1.5 million penalty after being charged with breaching a court order relating to its copper operations at Mt Gordon.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday flagged action against other operators, saying more companies were being investigated after 40 inspections across 22 mine sites last year.

"These charges are a stern reminder to the mining industry that disregarding environmental obligations is not acceptable," Mr Fraser said.

MMG Century stakeholder relations manager Matthew Foran said the company had spent about $350,000 on cleaning up the area of concern while another $8 million had been spent on measures since the incident.

"The discharge was the result of those exceptional heavy rains," he said.

"We are not in a position to comment any further really given those charges."

The Government has accused Birla Mt Gordon of continuing to store excessive amounts of contaminated water on-site and failing to cap and rehabilitate the Mammoth Waste Rock Dump.

The company, which did not return calls yesterday, had been previously issued with court and environmental protection orders, and penalty infringement notices for similar issues.

Birla Mt Gordon will face court on January 19 while MMG Century will front on February 23.

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