Tuesday, 06 November 2012 15:21
Queensland mines waterlogged since the floods will not be able to discharge into waterways under proposed legislation, the State Government said.
The government introduced a bill in parliament last week that would allow mines to release water in the event of an emergency.
The state opposition said it fears the changes will allow mining companies to discharge more toxic water into Queensland waterways under the guise of emergency releases.
There are 16 coal mines unable to operate at full capacity because of some 280,000 megalitres of water, nearly half of Sydney Harbour, after the 2010 and 2011 floods.
Environment Minister Andrew Powell said those mines would not be allowed to release the water as the legislation has not been introduced retrospectively.
"There is no intent to use this as a mechanism to allow mines to release water held from previous floods. This is a recommendation of the Flood Commission of Inquiry to allow the government to act in a timely manner in the event of any future emergencies," Mr Powell said.
"Each application will be assessed on the ability to meet environmental and water quality criteria on a case-by-case basis in the event of an emergency only."
He said it would be unlikely for a high volume of applications to be approved at the same time because storms were usually localised events.
The opposition's environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said the bill goes further than what the flood inquiry had recommended.
"The government is hiding behind the recommendation of the flood inquiry," Ms Trad told ABC Radio on Monday.
"This bill provides the release of contaminated water after a flood event. There is no stipulation on the time period after the event."
Ms Trad said the flood inquiry recommended emergency provisions should only be used in lead-up to and during an event, not after.
She said the bill also allows the financial impacts of a flood on a mine to trigger an emergency release - another provision the flood inquiry did not recommend.
"I think this government is going further and it's going further because it's having closed-door meetings with industry representatives that the community does not know about, to cut environmental regulations in this state," she told ABC radio.
The Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said there was no special deal between the government and the mining industry.
"Jackie Trads' claim that Bowen Basin coal mines will be able to discharge mine water into the Fitzroy willy-nilly is nonsense," Mr Roche said in a statement.
"The new legislative provisions apply to all industries in Queensland not just mining that might have an urgent need to remove water from their sites."
Mr Powell said mines release water on a regular basis, subject to environmental approval, when water flow is at an appropriate level, to ensure it flushes out.
"That has been a practice that has been approved for many years including under the previous Labor government," he said.
The bill introduced in parliament on Thursday amends the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and the Disaster Management Act 2003.
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