The gates have been opened at Rockhampton’s barrage this week.
The gates have been opened at Rockhampton’s barrage this week. Allan Reinikka

Nothing to fear, says mining rep

MINING companies operating in the Fitzroy River catchment have nothing to fear from full reporting of water discharges, an industry leader said yesterday.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said companies welcomed information being published on the Department of Environment and Resource Management's Fitzroy River website and hoped this data would be available from today.

The Bulletin yesterday approached management at both of the mines which the department this week confirmed had recently breached their water discharge Environmental Authorities.

Minor discharge breaches were reported at Saraji mine, about 20km north-west of Dysart, and Capcoal mine, 25km south-west of Middlemount.

The department's mine operations general manager Andrew Connor said any enforcement action taken against these mines would be disclosed.

"The department is currently considering an enforcement response," he said.

On Wednesday, Environment Minister Vicky Darling directed the department to tell the community of any future breaches after Member for Keppel Paul Hoolihan and Labor's Rockhampton candidate Bill Byrne voiced their disproval over the handling of the recent breaches.

The Fitzroy River's current salinity level at The Gap, measured as electrical conductivity, is 480 uS/cm and continues to drop.

Mr Connor said the fact the level had dropped while mines were releasing water was an indicator that the department's model condition approach was working as intended.

In a statement, Mr Roche said it should be clear mining companies were keeping the regulator fully informed.

"Most importantly, these releases are in no way endangering the health of the Fitzroy River Basin or the quality of drinking water."

A spokeswoman for Anglo American said the company, which managed Capcoal mine, was committed to minimising the environmental impacts of its mine sites.

She said the company had installed new storage and diversion infrastructure, increased its pumping and piping capacity and was working closely with DERM.

Meanwhile, a BMA spokeswoman said DERM was notified and corrective action was immediately taken about the Saraji breach.

See tomorrow's Bulletin for an in-depth response from DERM on its testing regime. Also Bruce Diamond, an independent candidate for Rockhampton at the state election, speaks on water.


Discharge timeline

Breaches of water mine discharges into the Fitzroy River catchment have caused a stir this week. Here's how the situation unfolded.

Mid-late January: Heavy rainfall recorded across the Fitzroy River catchment area.

January 23: Mines start discharging into the Fitzroy River system.

Monday: The Bulletin asks DERM how many mines are discharging. In a response, released shortly before 9pm, the department confirms 12 mines have made discharges, including two that have breached their Environment Authorities.

Tuesday: Council's water spokesman Greg Belz issues a media release condemning the discharges. Following further questions from The Bulletin, DERM issues a second statement identifying Saraji and Capcoal mines as the mines which breached their infringement notices. It also says 14 mines have now made discharges since January 23.

Wednesday: Labor's Keppel MP Paul Hoolihan and Rockhampton candidate Bill Byrne are straight onto Environment Minister Vicky Darling's office calling for action. In the afternoon Ms Darling announces she has directed DERM to publicly disclose all future discharge breaches. DERM's investigation into the recent breaches continues.

Yesterday: LNP candidate for Rockhampton Gavin Finch says the mines should not be allowed to make any discharges of poorer quality water into the catchment. A spokesman for the mining industry says mining companies have nothing to hide and welcome the release of discharge data.

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