Miners and Mineral Processors Must Be Held Accountable for Environmental Damage

Published: March 31, 2016

The Lock the Gate Alliance has expressed strong support for the Qld Government’s proposed amendments to the state’s Environmental Protection Act that would close several loopholes that allowed miners and mineral processors to avoid their site cleanup obligations.

In a submission to the State Parliamentary Agriculture and Environment Committee, the Alliance welcomed the extension of environmental liability to parent companies, their directors and other parties who have either benefited financially from the relevant activity or are in a position to influence the operating company’s compliance with its environmental obligations.

Rick Humphries, Coordinator of Lock the Gate’s Mine Rehabilitation Reform Campaign, said it was entirely reasonable that people and associated companies who may be one step up the chain of command but who have clearly benefitted or have influence over decision making should be held to account. 

“The amendments reflect the polluter pays principle which is widely accepted as the foundation for legislative accountability in Queensland and across Australia,” he said.

“Minister Miles should be commended for taking this step to close a loophole whereby miners and mineral processes can use legally complex company structures to avoid fulfilling their clean up and rehabilitation obligations.”

Mr Humphries said the end of the mining boom has seen a number of companies effectively “take the money and run” in regards to declaring bankruptcy thereby passing the liability to the State Government and the Queensland taxpayer.

“Parent companies have taken the profits during the good times and used their subsidiaries once the profits dry up to avoid their legal obligations and shunt the costs onto tax payers. The stand out is Clive Palmer and Queensland Nickel however the mining industry more generally has a shameful track record in using corporate structures to reneg on their clean up obligations,” Mr Humphries said.

“There are more than 15,000 abandoned mines and other minerals processing sites in Queensland. The list continues to grow and with the down turn in coal specifically there are warning signs more companies will go under and walk away.

“The amendments, which deserve the support of every Queensland taxpayer, is not a panacea but they go a long way and signal to the mining and minerals processing industry that the party’s over in terms of lax oversight. There is also a need to review financial assurances and the use of mothballing mines in perpetuity to avoid the cost of clean up.

“We will continue to support further legislative and regulatory reforms that ensure the environment and the taxpayer’s interests are protected,” he said.

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