The Queensland Government has had enough of mining and minerals processing companies leaving a mess in the Sunshine State.
It is introducing "Chain of Responsibility" amendments into the Environment Protection Act 1994 to ensure that "responsible persons" cannot walk away from their clean up responsibilities by going bankrupt.
Already we have seen the mining industry declare their opposition to these changes. These urgent and necessary amendments need our support. They are one important step in the battle to hold the mining industry to account.
To make a submission:
Write a short submission (it is best if written in your own words) addressed to the Agriculture and Environment Committee via email to firstname.lastname@example.org - you can find more details here on their website.
When making a submission you could make the following points;
- That you support the proposed legislative amendments proposed in the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016
- As a Queensland taxpayer you are concerned at the extent of abandoned mines and minerals processing facilities that number in excess of 15,000 sites across the states
- That early evidence shows that the development of underground coal gasification and the roll out of unconventional gas (including Coal Seam Gas and Shale Gas) over thousands of square kilometers of Queensland has the potential for huge environmental damage
- That companies financial assurance or environmental insurance is unlikely to cover the extent of the damage when things go wrong with mining and unconventional gas
- That right now many mining and unconventional gas companies are facing financial pressure and risk going into administration. These circumstances make the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016 necessary and urgent
- That there is a urgent need to hold companies to account in regards to cleaning up the environmental impacts given the industry’s poor environmental record
- That the legislation needs to mandate extending the responsibility to cleaning up environmental impacts to all mineral processing facilities in the State, and
- That you support the “polluter pays” principle where those that profit from exploiting the mineral resources which are owned by the people of Queensland leave their sites in a condition without residual environmental impacts.
Lock the Gate Alliance welcomes this new piece of legislation introduced by the Palaszczuk Government - the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016. We believe it will help ensure mining and mineral processing industries prevent their operations from polluting the environment and will make it more likely that they will ‘clean-up’ after themselves.
As we have seen recently in Queensland businesses – Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel Refinery adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef and the Texas Silver Mine on the Granite Belt - have declared bankruptcy without completing site cleanup and without leaving adequate funds to complete rehabilitation.
Historically many sites were simply abandoned without any financial provision being made for their rehabilitation, resulting in the cost of rehabilitation being passed onto the taxpayer. To date there are 15,000 mines and other abandoned industrial sites in Queensland with a total cleanup bill in the billions. This will have to be funded by the tax payer.
The legislative changes being proposed will mean that environmental responsibilities cannot be avoided even when companies are in financial difficulty. The Bill proposes amendments to ensure a parent company or company director can be held responsible for taking action to prevent or clean-up environmental harm, or to enable relevant costs to recovered from them.
However, these extra powers should be accompanied by extra resources for the regulator, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. There is little use in beefing up the powers of the regulator without giving the regulators the resources to do their job properly.
Before being passed into law, these amendments will be debated by a Parliamentary Committee. The mining industry has already declared their opposition to these changes. Having enjoyed a loop hole in the current laws that allow them to effectively walk away from their mining rehabilitation responsibilities and pass the cost onto the tax payers, the mining and mineral processing industries have vowed to fight the changes.