The Queensland agriculture industry relies heavy on river and catchment systems and, as such, management of water discharge from mines must be meticulously monitored and controlled, AgForce beleves.
The organisation said recent flood events in which water was released or overflowed from mines had demonstrated the production and environmental importance of discharge management.
The Queensland Government, through the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, issues Environmental Authorities that place conditions on resource project activities, including the discharge of mine water to manage environmental impacts.
The extended wet seasons of 2010 and 2011 resulted in high volumes of water being held in mines and in November 2012 the Queensland Government responded by accelerating discharge of this water using relaxed EA conditions in a pilot study for four mines in central Queensland. It was announced in May 2013 Government plans to expand this to other coal mines in the Fitzroy Basin in the next wet season;
Furthermore, the State Government has attempted to address unforeseeable emergency events, for example floods, by enabling further mine water discharges using Temporary Emissions Licences (TEL).
However, AgForce policy officer, Tamara Badenoch, said landholders remained concerned.
“There is large concern from farmers in relation to the potential negative impact of discharge from mines and other resource activities which may contain salts, sediments and other contaminants or toxins including metals, on the environment,” Ms Badenoch said.
Specifically, AgForce Queensland is calling for:
- Appropriate preparedness measures at mines should be implemented as a first priority (minimise the collection of water and/or treated to an appropriate quality before discharge);
- Effective monitoring covering the full range of released contaminants and close to the site of release of any emergency or accelerated releases that occur under mine water discharges and appropriate funding for this to be done both internally and overseen by third parties;
- Appropriate and rigorous risk assessment of the potential impacts of release contaminants on other stakeholders in the catchments;
- Any expanded accelerated discharge program must include consideration and appropriate management of the cumulative impacts of multiple mine/water release within catchments and so that the full environmental and economic risks to other stakeholders within the catchment must be considered;
- Greater emphasis on notification of other stakeholders before and during releases.
“The health of the environment is the basis upon which primary producers’ own personal health and livlihoods stems so this is of critical importance to both their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the industry,” Ms Badenoch said.
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