Gov't: Keep your mine water clean
WE DON'T care how you do it, but it better be clean - that is the message to coalminers from the Queensland Government.
Sweeping new guidelines for mines mean tougher rules on how they handle floodwaters but fewer rules on how they treat that mine water.
The rules were to be publicly discussed by Environment Minister Andrew Powell for the first time on Tuesday night.
The new approach by the Department of Environment is a change from the former government which designated exactly how run-off was to be treated, down to mandating exact chemicals mines were to use.
In one example, a mine found a cheaper and more environmentally conscious way of treating water, but was bound to stick to the word of the law.
Mines have now been given "model guidelines" to meet - any discharges must meet drinking water standards, but how that level is met will be up to the operation.
The government has also made a deal that if mines spend the money to protect pits from flooding, they have a better chance of being given permission to release leftover run-off in the coming wet season.
However, mines faced with a powerful deluge will still be able to dump water temporarily with permission from the Department, thanks to legislation passed last year.
When requested, the government has 24 hours to either approve or reject the demand, which is to be used to avert an emergency.
Even then, mines risk punishment if their water quality fails drinking water standards.
"I want to reassure Queenslanders that this is in response to the Floods Commission of Inquiry," he said.
"It's a regulatory tool that allows action to be taken to avert a significant environmental outcome."
Mr Powell pointed to a case in Gladstone where a dam wall was under construction and risked collapsing if the site could not release water.
Had the wall failed, the damage to the environment could have been catastrophic.
Following the destruction brought by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, those relying on drinking water from the Fitzroy catchment in Central Queensland - particularly Rockhampton - grew nervous about mine discharges going into their water supplies.
That concern increased as APN published revelations that 500 million litres of mine run-off from a Biloela coal operation was released into the town's water supply without treatment teams being told.
Mr Powell said most mine water information would be published online, but in response to APN's investigation, a "subscription list" would be created to alert the community, councils and others whenever records were updated.
The minister said there was no change to the levels of salt, metals or other materials allowed to be released by mines.