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Leaked Government Report Reveals Failed Coal Mine Rehabilitation Costing Taxpayers $3.2 Billion

A leaked Queensland Government report estimates that taxpayers are set to foot a massive bill of $3.2 billion in coal mine rehabilitation costs because the current financial assurance system is not covering the full cost of mine rehabilitation.

The report shows that not only are the financial bonds held by coal companies completely inadequate to rehabilitate sites, but that on-ground progressive rehabilitation is in decline.

Rick Humphries, Coordinator of Lock the Gate's Mine Rehabilitation Reform Campaign, said this represents a scandalous failure of successive Queensland Governments to regulate big coal, who made huge profits during the boom and are now leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill.

“This leaked report reveals a systemic failure of coal mining companies to provide enough financial assurances to clean up after their mining operations,” Mr Humphries said.

“The report is a terrible indictment on the Queensland Government, who have failed to properly protect taxpayers and who have allowed big coal to rort the rehabilitation system to the tune of $3.2 billion.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. The report didn’t cover other commodities like copper, lead or zinc. That’ll be billions more.

“When mining companies dodge their clean up responsibilities, we’re all left to pay more, and our community pays the cost of poorer schools and underfunded hospitals

“This report shows that in the economic impact of these inadequate financial assurances just for coal is equivalent to 6.5% of the Qld government’s annual revenue, and thus a massive potential hit to health and education budgets.

“This report confirms our fears that the system of financial assurances and coal mine rehabilitation in Queensland is completely broken.

“We are calling for urgent and far-reaching legal reforms by the Queensland Government to immediately require full, upfront financial assurances from mining companies and to finally force big coal to rehabilitate their sites, instead of allowing them to cut and run” he said.

A copy of the report is available for download here.

High quality aerial drone footage and stills of 3 coal mines assessed in the report are available here.


Attachment1: Report Summary Briefing

The report is titled ‘Targeted Compliance Programme Report on Financial Assurance for Queensland Coal Mines (TCP-009)’.

It was written by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and is dated 29 January 2016.


The Report was designed to test the sufficiency of financial assurance (FA) held from coal mining companies for cleaning up their operations against the rehabilitation liability of QLD coal mines.

Financial assurances were examined in detail for 15 Queensland coal mines, which equate to 28% of coal mines in the State, and the results of that analysis were extrapolated to the rest of the industry.

The report focused on four key areas:

a)      Reconciling the amount of FA held by DNRM against those requested by DEHP

b)      Validating the rehabilitation liabilities and ensure the amounts are adequate, and

c)       Reviewing progressive rehabilitation performance

d)      Extrapolating the results to highlight the nature and full scale of the issues across the coal sector


Key Findings

The key findings of the DEHP report were that:

  1. The amount of financial assurance held for the 15 mines sampled is insufficient to complete rehabilitation at these sites. The estimated deficit is $839.8 million
  2. Extrapolating the sample results to the coal industry in Qld indicates that there is a $3.24 billion deficit in financial assurances
  3. The coal industry’s footprint is now estimated to be 190,000 hectares of disturbed land
  4. To date only 22.5% of coal mine disturbance has been subject to some type of “preliminary” rehabilitation down from 28% in 2006 and is on a downward trajectory
  5. 90% of the financial assurance amounts put forward by industry are incorrect and are too low due to the high use of industry calculators which are taken “at face value” by the regulators

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