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Six years to clean up Blair Athol

HISTORY: Photo of the railway line west of Rockhampton. On the reverse, it reads “Blair Athol July 1946 Surveying Party, See MB 7/8/46”. Photo: The Morning Bulletin/ ROK100611historic2
HISTORY: Photo of the railway line west of Rockhampton. On the reverse, it reads “Blair Athol July 1946 Surveying Party, See MB 7/8/46”. Photo: The Morning Bulletin/ ROK100611historic2

IT WILL take Rio Tinto at least six years to clean up the soon-to-be buried Blair Athol Mine in Central Queensland, creating what must feel like the most drawn-out bond clean in history.

For the Queensland Government to give the $84 million bond back - in this case called a land assurance - the mining giant will spend half a decade repairing the site for grazing or re-vegetation.

Blair Athol will be shut down "before December", according to Rio Tinto, but 12 months will pass before it begins rehabilitation.

Rio Tinto announced the closure on August 8, affecting the 170 staff and contractors onsite.

About 30 would be kept for the parts of Blair Athol still used by the nearby Clermont Mine, including its coal handling and preparation plant.

The state takes the money as insurance against a mine falling into administration, leaving a dangerous and potentially polluting blight abandoned on the landscape.

The figure is based on the level of "disturbance" on the site, which, once flagged for closure, amounts to the operation's footprint.

Thanks to Blair Athol's 30-year mining history and reputation as one of the state's oldest mines, the bond was bound to be massive.

Between now and the final shut-down, Rio - through its subsidiary Queensland Coal - will determine what it does next.

When and how were yet to be worked out, according to a Rio Tinto spokesman.

Until it does, the state will hold on to its $84,080,890.

A Department of Environment spokesman said the State Government would work with Rio Tinto to ensure the job was properly done.

The resource conglomerate has not been immune from the high Australian dollar plaguing coal sales in international markets, and did not deny contractors at its other Bowen Basin operations had been laid off.

Speculation has also been raised about the future of Clermont Coal jobs following last month's announcement positions would go in an attempt for the company to regain some market competitiveness by reducing operational costs.

Rio Tinto Coal Australia's contractor workforce numbers vary regularly depending on needs across our operations-  Rio Tinto spokesman

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