Government departments have found at least 78 environmental breaches relating to the release of mine water from Central Queensland coal sites since 2010.
Government departments have found at least 78 environmental breaches relating to the release of mine water from Central Queensland coal sites since 2010. Daryl Wright

Coal mines dump water without permission for years

FLOODED mines have been releasing water into rivers and streams without permission for years, with government departments finding at least 78 environmental breaches from Central Queensland coal sites since 2010.

The mining industry and State Government have stated the environmental impacts of mine water going into rivers and creeks was negligible because it was heavily diluted by floodwaters, but primary producers are less convinced.

The latest figures follow revelations that at least six Bowen Basin coal mines - west of Mackay and Rockhampton - are under investigation for "non-compliant" discharges of mine site water in January.

Figures released by the Department of Environment suggest in the 2010-11 financial year - when enormous amounts of rain inundated much of the state - there were 56 environmental breaches shared between 22 Bowen Basin coal mines as they released water without government approval.

In 2012, there were 22 breaches among 10 coal mines in the same region.

AgForce general president Ian Burnett said farmers remained wary of how mine water was being released as far back as 2008, with some producers preferring to rely on intuition rather than laboratory results.

Mr Burnett - who lives upstream from the Ensham Mine on the Nogoa River - said farmers found it hard to prove water quality was poor, even as cattle refused to drink it.

Asked if this could be a result of floodwaters affecting water quality, he said it was possible.

"It's very hard to get substantiated information.'"

Professor Chris Moran, from the University of Queensland's Sustainable Minerals Institute, said mine water was often high in salt, but added it may have "traces" of heavy metals.

He said regulations were in place to ensure mines did not eject water into small creeks or streams.

"If there is no flow (in the waterway), there is an ecological threat to the release," he said.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell has repeatedly said it was unlikely any environmental impacts would be caused by the release of mine water into the Fitzroy River systems.



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