Mine rehabilitation overhaul needed to avoid a massive toxic legacy



14 June 2016

Mine rehabilitation overhaul needed to avoid a massive toxic legacy

A new report highlights systemic and structural failures in the regulation of mine closure and rehabilitation in Australia and recommends the federal government set up a national inquiry to avoid the fading mining boom leaving behind a massive toxic legacy.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has today released two reports – a research report by the Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) examining the extent of the problem and a collection of stories about people whose communities have got a raw deal from mining.

The MPI report finds:

  • Most mine closures are unplanned and a result of economic and market factors
  •          A failure to reform the regulation of mine closures will result in long term pollution affecting communities, water, air and wildlife
  • While companies’ exposure to risk is usually protected by subsidiary entities and limited liability, governments and the community have limited protection against the social, environmental and financial risks when a project or company fails.

“This report reveals a looming disaster that urgently requires national action if we don’t want to have a string of off-limits toxic sites around the country and the public left to pay for their ongoing maintenance,” said ACF campaigns director Paul Sinclair.

“There are more than 50,000 abandoned mines in Australia and around 75 per cent of mines close unexpectedly or without proper site rehabilitation plans.

44Gallons of runoff

“Australia’s environmental laws are failing to protect our reefs, rivers, forests, wildlife and people from the legacy of abandoned mines.

“From Queensland Nickel’s Yabulu Refinery – which has a tailings dam only metres away from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – to the McArthur River mine, to the brown coal mines in the Latrobe Valley and the Russell Vale coal mine in Sydney’s drinking water catchment, there are serious risks of ongoing pollution.

“With the mining boom fading fast and multinational mining companies offloading their assets, this problem is about to get a whole lot worse.

“ACF calls on all parties to commit to set up an inquiry into mine closure and rehabilitation in the first 100 days of the next parliament so big mining companies are made to clean up their mess, not leave polluted water and land for generations to come.”

Contact: ACF senior media adviser Josh Meadows, 0439 342 992

Groundtruths report ACF MPI

Useful materials

  • The research report by the Mineral Policy Institute
  • The collection of stories about people whose communities have got a raw deal from mining
  • Audio of interview with Kaye Osborn, who lives a block from the Russell Vale coal mine near Wollongong
  • Audio of interview with Wendy Farmer, who lives near the Hazelwood mine in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley
  • Below, the Mineral Policy Institute’s media release.



A big hole in Australia’s long-term budget

A new report, Ground truths: Taking responsibility for Australia’s mining legacies outlines the legacy of Australia’s mining boom and makes recommendations for limiting the impact of poor rehabilitation on communities and government finances.

“Failure to control mining legacies could leave a massive and recurring budget expense, equivalent to billions of dollars per year, in perpetuity, due to ongoing environmental and social impacts which need costly management,” said Mineral Policy Institute (MPI) Chair, Dr Gavin Mudd.

The report calls for a national inquiry, with seven recommendations addressing issues of financial liabilities and reporting, regulation, life of site impact assessment, national reporting and greater jurisdictional cooperation.

“A national inquiry, full impact and closure reporting and greater jurisdictional cooperation could avoid the transfer of liability we are seeing as mine sites are closed and companies go bankrupt – leaving the cost of rehabilitation to taxpayers and local environments and communities.”

The report demonstrates how industry has acknowledged the growing problem and financial liability of mining legacies for decades and the slow response from Australian regulators. A national inquiry would be able to put a clear dollar figure on the cost of cleaning up Australia’s mine sites and propose reasonable regulatory reform.

“The financial cost of fixing mining legacies is clearly enormous, but can be solved through an effective, cooperative response. The social, economic, environmental and physiological impacts of mining are made harder to address. Australia needs to act now before the problem gets any bigger,” said MPI Executive Director and report author, Charles Roche.

“The mining industry, including the International Council on Mining and Metals, have long recognised the potential costs of mining legacies, governments should support industry with effective regulatory changes.”

Contact MPI Chair: Dr Gavin Mudd, 0419 117 494; Report author: Charles Roche 0450 901 714,



Clean up old mine sites 15,000 in Qld

JOHN McCARTHY, The Sunday Mail (Qld)

June 12, 2016 12:00am

A NEW growth industry in the state could be cleaning up the mess left from a once booming industry now in decline.

Activist and Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton said thousands of jobs could be created in rehabilitating more than 400 abandoned mines in Queensland that could pose an environmental threat.

The problem is getting someone to pay for it.

In 2012, the Queensland Commission of Audit estimated that a clean-up of Queensland’s 15,000 abandoned mines would cost $1 billion. About 12,000 of these mines are on private land.

The issue gained ­attention when Linc Energy collapsed leaving a clean-up headache for its underground coal gasification site near Chinchilla on the Darling Downs.

Mr Hutton said he had public support with a poll from Lock the Gate and the Australia Institute showing the community was strongly behind the push for companies to clean up mines, many now vast pits of saline water.

The poll found more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of 437 respondents said that mine sites should be fully rehabilitated “close to previous natural or farming condition’’. Another 11 per cent said partial rehabilitation was preferable, with “pits partially refilled and water pollution minimised’’.

The Australia Institute’s Rod Campbell said most Australians don’t want miners to leave behind holes full of toxic water, yet this was government policy in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

“People don’t think it’s fair that companies dig up profits for overseas shareholders during the good times, then leave the community to clean up after them,’’ Mr Campbell said.

“State governments approved these mines and took on the responsibility to regulate them. In the post-mining boom, they need to ensure that the companies which profited are made to clean-up.’’

Mr Hutton said he visited the abandoned Mary Kathleen uranium mine, near Mount Isa, where tailings dams are leaking more than 30 years after the mine closed.

“There is radioactive waste but there is also heavy metals and salt. You can go to the nearby Cameron River and it’s disgusting. Cattle will not go anywhere near it and it got a prize for rehabilitation in 1986,’’ he said.

About 15,000 mines have been abandoned in Queensland and Mr Hutton said between 400 and 500 were a concern. “It would be a massive job creator but it depends on money and, at the moment, only $6 million has been allocated to the clean-up and most of that goes to Mt Morgan.’’

Muswellbrook Coal Mine

Muswellbrook Coal Mine


Lock the Gate Road Trip to Kingston SE


Friday 17th June at 2pm – 3pm

All Welcome

Come and meet Phil Laird and Annie Kia from Lock The Gate Alliance who will share how communities are winning, and what you can do to protect your ‘Mining Free Brand’ and protect your livelihood, land and families.

Phil Laird is National Campaign Coordinator of Lock The Gate. A farmer, he understands the harm that contamination can do to rural enterprises. Phil will speak on insurance risks to landholders from unconventional gasfields.

This will be Annie’s fourth visit to our region. As Lock The Gate Community Engagement Coordinator, she helps communities develop their own Mining and Gasfield Free strategies.

LCPA are aware that Sherlock Minerals plans to explore for lead, silver, zinc and other minerals over large mining leases close to Kingston SE.  This is of great concern to many local landowners and the community at large. As reported by LCPA in April last year, Strike Energy handed back its licence for the Kingston Lignite Project.  A lot of work by locals made this possible.

Sherlock Minerals Exploration Licences

See the map for the numbers which show where the exploration licences are.Sherlock Minerals Exploration licences

Sherlock Minerals Pty Ltd

Exploration Licence; 5385 looking for Copper Gold Lead Silver Zinc

Exploration Licence; 5386 looking for Copper Gold Lead Silver Zinc

Exploration Licence; 5387 looking for Copper Gold Lead Silver Zinc

Note that the other small areas on map are for;

Agricola Mining Pty Ltd

Exploration Licence; 5575 looking for Carbonate

Exploration Licence; 5576 looking for Magnesite

Strike Energy pulls out of Lignite Project near Kingston SE

Strike Energy hands back its licence to the State Government,

5th April 2015. Radio Adelaide

After ten years of research into the possibilities of mining lignite in the South East, Strike Energy has handed back the licence to the State Government and gone elsewhere. After eight years of protests re lignite mine and associated activities, campaigners and residents have cause to celebrate. Campaigner Anne Daw called into the studio to speak with Barometer’s Sue Reece and let us know all the updates.

Listen to this interview here;

Find out more about Sherlock Minerals here

NT pastoralists show down with mining companies; Landline

Boiling Point on Landline on 16th March 2015

PIP COURTNEY, PRESENTER: Northern Territory pastoralists are the most unprotected in the country when it comes to their rights in facing up to mining and exploration companies. For years, they’ve been pushing for better protection and a bolstering of legislation. But nothing has happened and tensions are reaching boiling point.

Kristy O’Brien filed this report from Central Australia.  Read more and watch on

SA State Mineral Royalties less than 3% and Oil and Gas under 9%

Royalties in SA


While Minerals production was 4.8 billion and Petroleum  production approx 1.1 billion

Minerals royalties paid to State : $107.5m only about 2.2% of production

Petroleum royalty $81.2 approx 8% of production

Total SA State royalties 2012/13: $188.7m


Mineral production 5.4 billion and Petroleum production 1.6 billion

Minerals royalties paid: $157.5m which is 2.9% of production

Petroleum royalty $133.9 is 8.3% of production

Total royalties 2013/14:  $291.4m

Information from DSD December 2014

Mount Gambier council adopts anti-fracking stance

Mount Gambier city councillors have unanimously supported a motion opposing unconventional gas exploration in south-east South Australia.

The council is calling on the State Government to impose at least a two-year moratorium on fracking.

It also wants the South-East Local Government Association to adopt a clear stance on the matter.

Limestone Coast Protection Alliance member Anne Daw says the city council now joins the Robe and Wattle Range councils, which have previously voiced their concerns.

“It is very, very good that the council are putting their voice out there,” she said.

“This is showing support from the community.

“It is not only the general community that have concerns but people on the council that are elected by the people and this also sends a clear message to our State Government.

“Our concerns will always be there as long as these projects are allowed.

“I really wanted to see the laws changed. We certainly are taking away their social licence in the south-east and sending a message to the petroleum companies that we do not want them down there.”

Mining Industry ‘misconceptions’

THE Limestone Coast needs to choose between a future as an agriculturally rich food bowl and renowned wine region or an unconventional shale gasfield dotted with wells that have a lifespan of 15-20 years at most.

That’s the opinion of Australia Institute’s Mark Ogge. A researcher with the independent think-tank based in Canberra, he delivered three information sessions at Mount Gambier, Penola and Kingston last week, hosted by the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance and Community Action for Sustainability.

Mr Ogge outlined “misconceptions” about the mining industry’s financial contribution to the economy and employment.

Apart from environmental concerns with groundwater pollution and drawdown of the aquifer, Mr Ogge said there were adverse social and financial impacts for agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

He said mining did not simply have an additive effect to the local economy; the boom in the past couple of decades had come at the expense of other parts of the Australian economy.

He said Australia’s gas industry paid a fraction of the average effective corporate tax rate of about 21 per cent.

“The gas industry, with all its deductions, pays about 6 per cent. They pay a petroleum resource rent tax of 8 per cent, but that is because of the super profits and is not intended to mean they should pay less corporate tax,” Mr Ogge said.

The gas industry was also subject to royalties, but he said these needed to be put in perspective.

“In Queensland, when all projects are operating at their peak in 2016-17, it will only be paying $450 million in royalties to the government – so 1 per cent of Queensland’s revenue – and there is a big price tag attached, which is covering tens of thousands of kilometres of Queensland with gas wells.”

Agriculture and tourism are the two biggest industries and, by far, the biggest employers in the area. You don’t want to trade them away lightly. – Australia Institute’s Mark Ogge.

In contrast, Norway has recognised it is a finite resource and has taxed its gas industry at 78 per cent. It also has a state-owned stake in every venture.

Mr Ogge said this money had gone into a sovereign wealth fund worth $1.5 trillion for future generations whereas in Australia, these resources were nearly being given away.

“I was shocked when I read just a couple of days ago that the current SA government has offered a five-year royalty holiday to the gas industry in this state,” he said.

“A lot of these wells aren’t going to last five years – the people of this state own this resource and are not getting the returns.”

“Agriculture and tourism are the two biggest industries and, by far, the biggest employers in the area. You don’t want to trade them away lightly,” Mr Ogge said.

Read the full article in the Naracoorte Herald


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