Lock The Gate takes Qld Government to Court to unlock $1 coal mine sale secrets

Published: November 09, 2017

Lock the Gate has today filed an application in Qld’s Supreme Court for the Queensland Government to release reasons for setting the financial assurance amount required of smaller miner Orion after it bought Blair Athol coal mine from Rio Tinto for $1.

The action, in what what may be the first time public concerns with mining rehabilitation has reached the court, follows numerous requests by EDO Qld client Lock The Gate to government to release the information, which were refused.

The application is in addition to a separate action by Lock the Gate to also obtain reasons for the Government’s decision to allow the mining lease transfer for the coal mine near Clermont, with a hearing marked for 15 November 2017.

In a media statement, Lock the Gate spokesperson Rick Humphries said: “The mine site has extensive rehabilitation needs after it was mothballed by Rio in 2012. Given the potentially serious financial risks to the taxpayer posed by the ill-conceived decisions to allow the mining lease transfer and set a low financial assurance, we believe the public has the right to know on what basis these decisions were made.

“We want to see how the Government found that Orion has the resources to effectively operate and rehabilitate the Blair Athol site, how the public interest was considered in the lease transfer, and how the financial assurance was calculated. They are a junior miner which has never completed the rehabilitation or closure of a mine,” he said

“In addition, Orion’s parent Terracom is carrying a massive debt load and we believe the financial assurance of $80m paid for by Rio Tinto to facilitate the deal is absolutely inadequate. All this exposes the taxpayers to potentially tens of millions in liability if TerraCom and/or Orion fall over.”

EDO Qld CEO Jo Bragg said: “Our client Lock the Gate is acting in the public interest calling for transparency and accountability around financial assurances for the rehabilitation of this project.

“Without sufficient financial assurances Queenslanders risk being out of pocket in the millions for the rehabilitation of site alone. There’s also a risk of impact to the environment, groundwater as well as people’s health and safety if Orion doesn’t hold the finances to properly rehabilitate the site.

“This application highlights a long term issue in Queensland, that current mechanisms are failing to be transparent and/or ensure mining projects are properly rehabilitated without risking the placement of the burden on public finances.

“The current Government has done great work in moving to more accountability on mine site rehabilitation and we hope those good reforms on assurances, which will hold mines more financially accountable for clean-ups, continue.”

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