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Big holes left in rehab legislation due to become law this week

Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on the Queensland Government to reaffirm its commitment to appoint an independent mine rehabilitation commissioner on the eve of new rehabilitation laws coming into effect on November 1. 

Last year, during the parliamentary debate around the new laws, the Government committed to establish a rehabilitation commissioner within 12 months to ensure best practice standards were applied to mine rehabilitation in Queensland*.  

The Alliance is also calling on the Queensland Government to initiate a review of the legislation and tighten what are now extremely broad exemptions which allow mining companies to avoid new stricter rehabilitation requirements.

During the drafting of the legislation, last-minute concessions made to the mining industry went way beyond what was originally considered.

This created loopholes which have led to a scramble by some companies to lodge their Environmental Authorities before November 1, potentially in a bid to be exempt from key aspects of the rehabilitation laws, such as prohibitions on leaving open pits on floodplains. 

Lock the Gate mine rehabilitation coordinator Rick Humphries cited the Baralaba South coal project as a prime example of how companies were avoiding the new stricter requirements.

“Baralaba South hasn’t even completed its initial environmental impact study, yet it applied for an environmental authority fours days before the November 1 deadline, thereby potentially allowing it to leave unrehabilitated voids on the Dawson River floodplain. 

“The existing Baralaba Coal mine levees broke in 2010 which lead to toxic waste water being washed into the river system and eventually being released into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.”

According to Mr Humphries, a mine rehabilitation commissioner will ensure that companies such as Adani and Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal are required to meet recognised rehabilitation standards which are currently not being properly applied.

“The appointment of an independant Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner as promised by the Qld Government last year is crucial to complete the reform process started several years ago” Mr Humphries said.

“Without the appointment of a Commissioner, Queenslanders will continue to be left with permanently degraded landscapes and polluted waterways due to poor mine rehabilitation.

“Improving mine rehabilitation not only protects our local environments but it can also create hundreds if not thousands of jobs in regional Queensland.

“Having made a clear commitment to appoint a commissioner by November this year, the Government now needs to urgently deliver and equip the position with the powers and the resources to really hold both the industry and the regulator to account.”

*Second reading speech for Mineral and Energy Resources (Financial Provisioning) Act 2018 (November 2018):

“In response to community feedback the government will also establish a rehabilitation commissioner to ensure the standards for rehabilitation in all PRCPs meet environmental best practice and the expectations of the community. Appointment of this role will take place over the next 12 months. The commissioner will be responsible for establishing best practice management for these areas providing the community with confidence that rehabilitation outcomes will stand the test of time.”

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