TRANSPARENCY CALL: Labor candidate for Rockhampton Bill Byrne.
TRANSPARENCY CALL: Labor candidate for Rockhampton Bill Byrne. File

Anger at mine breaches

PAUL Hoolihan and Bill Byrne were straight on the phone to the office of Queensland's Environment Minister Vicky Darling early yesterday.

They may have made separate calls but the fired-up pair had the same message as they voiced concerns that Mayor Brad Carter, the council's water spokesman Greg Belz and the community had all been kept in the dark about mines in the Fitzroy River catchment recently breaching their discharge permits.

Both expressed anger at the Department of Environment and Resource Management's handling of the situation.

With an election weeks away, the Labor pair were on the front foot before Rockhampton's LNP candidate Gavin Finch later accused the government of arrogance and being out of touch by not keeping the community informed. (See tomorrow's Bulletin for his thoughts on mine discharges).

Two mines, Saraji and Capcoal, have breached their Environmental Authorities while making discharges, since January 23.

The community wasn't told about either breach, or that more than a dozen mines have made discharges, until The Bulletin started asking questions on Monday.

Both breaches have been described as minor and the department has provided an assurance they did not impact water quality.

As of yet no action has been taken against either mine, which face a maximum fine of $1m.

However, the department can issue infringement notices of $2000 or issue warnings.

Ms Darling issued a statement yesterday afternoon, saying she was "not going to let one slip-up like this undermine the confidence and collaboration that has been built in recent years."

"These discharges were not publicly reported as DERM considered them minor breaches with no impact on water quality," Ms Darling said.

"I've listened to concerns from Paul Hoolihan and Bill Byrne and asked my department to look at how it notifies the public about mine-water discharges.

"DERM will now notify the public about all mine discharges that are unauthorised or outside any company's approvals in the Fitzroy Basin."

She said daily water quality results were available on DERM's website and they showed the Fitzroy River's health continued to improve, despite the discharges.

Earlier in the day, Mr Byrne said the department had to be transparent when it came to keeping the community informed.

"It's totally unacceptable for mines to make discharges into the river outside their approval," Mr Byrne said.

Mr Hoolihan issued a statement in which he said he was angry.

"Like many others, I first knew about the breaches when I read the paper," Mr Hoolihan said.

"I understand that it is only two mines that have exceeded their Environmental Authority - but the fact is the community deserves to be told what's going on.

"The health of the river system impacts on the health of our community."

A delegation from DERM briefed the Mayor Cr Carter, Cr Belz and senior council management about the situation yesterday.

Cr Carter said the delegation apologised for not briefing the council and the department's director-general Jim Reeves was also personally called.

DERM considered them minor breaches with no impact on water quality

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