Generic mine BHP coal Daunia operations in central Queensland. Picture: BHPcoal mining coal mine
Generic mine BHP coal Daunia operations in central Queensland. Picture: BHPcoal mining coal mine

CQ coal mine fined after nine 'environmental damage' charges

A CENTRAL Queensland open-cut coal company has been hit with large fine for environmental damage.

DES released a statement yesterday stating the mine was fined $200,000 for "causing serious environmental harm following an uncontrolled release of mine-affected water from its coal mine".

Emerald Magistrates Court confirmed a BHP Mitsubishi Alliance Coal Operations' Goonyella Riverside mine about 40km north of Moranbah had nine charges on record for environmental offences. The penalty was handed down on July 8 in Emerald.

On July 3, 2019, the coal mine operator pleaded guilty in the Emerald Magistrates Court to one offence of unlawfully causing serious environmental harm, contrary to section the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

It also pleaded guilty to three offences of contravening a condition of an environmental authority.

During June and July 2017, an unauthorised and uncontrolled release of mine-affected water resulted in about 3,000 tonnes of sediment and silt being deposited into a nearby Isaac River.

A DES spokesperson detailed the incident which he said "caused serious ecological harm to aquatic fauna, including physical smothering, loss of habitat, and loss of food sources".

"An investigation revealed contraventions of the environmental authority relating to the unauthorised release of the mine-affected water, particularly failures to adhere to site-based plans for water management, erosion and sediment controls.

The coal mine operator was also ordered to cover $9,680.63 investigation costs and $1,500 legal costs, but a conviction was not recorded.

"As the environmental regulator, DES takes compliance issues seriously," a spokesperson said.

"The department has set clear expectations about acceptable standards of environmental performance," a spokesperson said.

"Where compliance issues are identified, the department will take strong enforcement action."

A spokesperson from BMA said the company accepted the penalty and environmental management was front of mind.

"The BHP Mitsubishi Alliance has pleaded guilty to releasing mine-affected water from the Goonyella Riverside mine in Central Queensland into the nearby Isaac River in July 2017," he said.

"BMA self-reported the incident to the Department of Environment and Science, and immediately took steps to remediate the affected area.

"We ... acknowledge that what occurred was unacceptable. We are heavily focused on continuous improvement of the environmental performance of our operations across the Bowen Basin."