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Call for fund to fix abandoned mine sites in Queensland following drownings

Posted by on 18/07/2018

Veteran conservation campaigner, Drew Hutton says it is time to fix abandoned mine sites close to residences. Changes to Queensland Government legislation could help abandoned mine sites be filled in, or fenced. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

Aqua Lake at the New Chum quarry. Photo: Dave Andrews – @Chopperdaveqld

Queensland needs a “general” mine rehabilitation fund with mining company money – overseen by the Queensland Government – to fill in, or fence abandoned mine sites, community voices are arguing, according to an environmental campaigner.

Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton – who has fought for almost three decades for mine owners to rehabilitate their old mine sites – said it was time for subtle changes in Queensland legislation to find a way to fence or fill-in “abandoned” mine sites and use some of the mining company-contributed funds to fix “existing” mines.

Mr Hutton’s concerns were echoed by long-serving Ipswich councillor Paul Tully, who said on Thursday attracted young men wanting to swim across the quarry and “should be filled in.”

Mr Hutton agreed the old Collingwood Park quarry should be filled in.

“We need a more general fund, a ‘socialised fund’ that can be used on a more general basis to make repairs to abandoned mines,” Mr Hutton said.

“I would be recommending that all these abandoned mines around Ipswich be filled in to try to stop all these adolescents trying to test themselves in these uncontrolled environments.”

He said there was about 15,000 mine “sites” in Queensland, of which there would be “around 400” which would be “severe environmental or safety risks.”

This was also confirmed by Dr Lynham’s spokesman.

“Since 2013, more than 400 mine features have been made safe through abandoned mine remediation projects at 134 sites around Queensland.”

The Queensland Government allocated a little over $8 million per year – or $33.6 million over four years – to abandoned mine repairs to 400 mine sites at 134 different locations.

Two young men from Ipswich died this year trying to swim across a now privately owned abandoned mine quarry at Collingwood Park, near Ipswich.

However, the responsibility to clean-up  the quarry site and make it safe belongs to international waste management company, Cleanaway Waste Management Limited, a spokesman for Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said on Tuesday night.

“There are no current mining leases over the land and Cleanaway is responsible for managing access to the site,” the spokesman for Dr Lynham said.

“As the site has been transformed from an abandoned coal mine to a waste facility, it does not fall under the government’s Abandoned Mine Lands Program.”

It is unclear on Thursday night if Cleanaway are eligible to these funds, or would need to remediate the site itself.

The Queensland Government does have new legislation where individual mine owners are required to lodge large sums of money as financial assurance to allow environmental remediation of existing mines.

It has tightened its financial assurance legislation for mining companies, requiring them to lodge sums of money as “financial assurance” in the event an existing mine goes broke, or the owners “walk away”.

On July 22, 2016 the Queensland Government said it has more than $7 billion set aside to repair known mines.

However, these large sums sums of money – in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars for individual mines – do not apply to abandoned mines. They are tied only to existing individual mines.

The Collingwood Park site, once owned by old mine company New Chum, no longer has any state government “financial assurance” attributed to it, My Lynham’s spokesman said.

He said $33.6 million has been allocated to clean-up abandoned mine sites in Queensland over four years in the 2016 Queensland Budget, fudning Mr Hutton says is inadequate.

“It’s nothing. It’s just ‘drop in the ocean’ type stuff,” Mr Hutton said.

“What we need is a fund – as I say a more general fund – to fix abandoned mines.”

Mr Hutton said “at the very least”, Aqaua Lake at Collingwood Park should be surrounded by a high fence .

But he agreed that would be a short-term issue.

“They’ll just give each other a hoist up, or get a ladder or something,” he said.

“But it would be something for them to think about and perhaps stop that spur of the moment type of thing.

In Ipswich this week a 21-year-old man is missing, presumed drowned after trying to swim across Aqua Lake at Collingwood Park. A body was found late on Thursday.

A 16-year-old boy lost his life in similar circumstances in January, again raising the question about eliminating safety at abandoned mine sites.

The Queensland Resources Council said the Collingwood Park site was privately owned and mining companies could not be asked for additional repair money in 2016.

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