The Queensland government has outlined an expansion of the 2013-2014 Fitzroy Basin coal mine water pilot program to more effectively manage mine water releases.
Deputy Premier and State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney said the expanded pilot program will allow participating coal mines to take advantage of flow events to maximise the release of legacy mine water.
“To gain the benefits from this additional release opportunity, coal mines will need to demonstrate they are leading the way with improved mine water management practices,” he said.
“This includes necessary investment to minimise the generation and capture of mine-affected water.
“Participating mines will need to have made substantial investment in this area to receive the benefits from increased release opportunities.
“The legacy mine water issue remains real. It has cost the state an estimated $750 million in lost royalties.
“This pilot is one part of a long-term strategy to support economic development in the resources sector by getting coal mines back to full production.”
Mr Seeney said given there remains more than 250 gigalitres of legacy water in Fitzroy Basin coal mines, reducing the capture of any new water is essential if the state is to reduce the inventory of legacy water.
“We want to drive further improvements in mine water management that will take us to new levels of industry best practice,” he said.
“In addition to the four BMA mines from the 2012-13 pilot, other coal mines in the Fitzroy Basin will be assessed on a case-by-case basis on whether they can join the expanded pilot.
“Expert hydrologists from Gilbert and Sutherland last year found legacy mine water can be released when there were sufficient river flows, while maintaining water quality.”
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the operational policy for the pilot had been revised and will be used by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to implement the 2013-2014 pilot.
“Improved notification arrangements for participating coal mines will ensure downstream users, local councils and other parties are notified when mines are releasing water.
“This will be a transparent process with online detailed summaries prepared on a monthly basis.
“We expect a number of additional coal mines will be able to demonstrate that they can meet performance benchmarks.”
Mr Powell said that ‘pilot type’ amendments to environmental authorities will be made for participating mines, to free up release opportunity for the coal mines while ensuring we protect water quality for drinking, agriculture and the environment.
“The Newman Government will be working with the coal mines to progress these amendments on case-by-case basis, taking into account the land uses immediately downstream of the mines,” he said.
The 2013-2014 pilot retains key aspects of the 2012-2013 pilot, including investigation triggers and a ‘cease release’ water quality limit at Rockhampton.
The primary purpose of these triggers is to manage cumulative impacts and, whilst not considered likely to ever be required, stop mine water releases to ensure drinking water quality does not exceed what would normally be considered natural levels of salinity.
Similar to last wet season, the 2013-2014 pilot will be supported by an enhanced monitoring program. Two new stream gauging stations will also be installed at Bingegang Weir and Marlborough Creek, with the installation at Marlborough Creek now already complete.
As well as data to improve our understanding of catchment water quality, these stations will provide improved flow data and flood forecasting capability.
This long-term commitment to information on water quality in the Fitzroy Basin, builds on the $240,000 funding commitment to the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health, announced in May this year.