Mount Morgan mine tours sadly finishing end of the month
A BITTERLY disappointed John Steinberger is calling it a day on his business, running guided tours through the long- dormant Mount Morgan mine site.
For the past 12 years, Mr Steinberger's tour business TMC has been a fixture of the Mount Morgan community, running tours around the local region, with exclusive access to the mine site.
A number of issues had combined to form a bureaucratic brick wall that Mr Steinberger was unable to drive around.
These included the age of his vehicle, safety concerns related to the deterioration of the mine's road, and access concerns related to the clearing of decaying buildings containing asbestos.
In early September, he told the Queensland Government's Department of Mines that he was unable to meet their requirements to continue with the business before announcing on his website that he would cease operations at the start of October.
"Due to unfortunate circumstances beyond our control, extreme access restrictions and bus requirements on the site has recently been installed,” the TMC's website said.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads said they conducted a routine audit in April.
"At that time, Mr Steinberger was advised his bus would be over 20 years of age from September 30, 2018 and could no longer be used for public passenger transport,” TMR said.
"Maximum age limits for buses have been in place for more than 10 years.”
Added to the age limit restriction, Minister for Mines Dr Anthony Lynham MP said their most recent assessment at the mine site showed that it's not safe for a non-4WD vehicle to use the steep gravel roads that lead to the open-cut mine pit and the water treatment plant.
"Also, access will soon be limited for safety reasons to some of the historic mine buildings, which contain asbestos, are dilapidated and are to be demolished,” Dr Lynham said.
"Government officers continue to work on future options for the historic Mount Morgan mine site. But we must make public safety the first priority.”
Mr Steinberger said his mine access had gradually been limited as changes were made to their arrangements and he'd received no assurances from the government that if he was to purchase another 4WD bus they would guarantee his access to the open-cut mine.
"Where I'm coming from, I'm not prepared to continue when who knows what will be reduced next,” he said.
"It does distress me to have to move on but why would I buy a vehicle if the potential was then to fail?”
He said the closure of the mine tours meant visitors were no longer able to tangibly grasp the historical significance of the site and its pivotal role in the nation's history.
It was also a blow to an area already affected by the closure of the Fireclay Caverns, Carbine Resources' failure to restart the Mount Morgan gold mine and a significant unemployment situation.
Rockhampton Regional Councillor Cherie Rutherford said it was an incredible shame to see this family run business of 12 years come to an end, and I want to thank them for the significant contribution they have made to the community.
"Council advocated on behalf of TMC tours to the State Government, and we are very disappointed that an agreement that would have allowed these tours to continue was not reached,” Cr Rutherford said.
Mr Steinberger called for a government intervention led by Mirani MP Stephen Andrew and the Queensland Premier to resurrect Mount Morgan's fortunes.
Dr Lynham said the best opportunity for investment and jobs at Mount Morgan was to look at other alternatives and focus their efforts on the economic rehabilitation of the site.
"That's why government officers continue to work with Rockhampton Regional Council on opportunities for a safe tourism venture, including the clay caverns, and with the mining leaseholder regarding the reprocessing of tailings and associated economic rehabilitation of the site,” he said.
Mr Andrew indicated a willingness to visit Mount Morgan, assist Mr Steinberger and improve the prospects of the region's struggling tourism industry.
Cr Rutherford said RRC will continue to invest in Mount Morgan, building on projects like the recent streetscape transformation.
"Council will also keeping working hard to promote and attract events to this beautiful historic place, as there are still many things which make it of interest to tourists,” she said.
"These include the No 7 Dam, the range of museums, and, of course, the best cream buns in Australia.”