XSTRATA has been given the green light from the Department of Environment and Resource Management, to discharge floodwater stored at Rolleston Coal Mine into the Comet River.
The approval comes within a month of Xstrata declaring force majeure - stopping shipments to “a select number of customers” - after heavy rain halted coal production.
With water storage sites at the mine already under pressure following February’s major floods, recent heavy rainfall necessitated the discharge of water from the Spring Creek Dam into Bootes Creek.
Xstrata spokesperson, James Rickards, said the release of water was simply a preventative measure to reduce the risk of uncontrolled water discharge from the site during the wet season.
“All downstream land owners along Bootes Creek and Meteor Creek through to Comet River, were notified on Friday of the planned water discharge,” he said.
A DERM spokesperson said Rolleston Coal Mine would be required to provide daily water quality monitoring to test electrical conductivity levels, pH levels and turbidity, along with monthly tests for metals and potential substances.
“The maximum rate of discharge is 100 megalitres per day. The release is of water is approved until March 1, 2011, or until 4000 megalitres is released.”
Mr Rickards was keen to quash suggestions that the water discharge could result in a repeat of the 2008 Ensham Mine nightmare, when residents in Blackwater, Bluff and Tieri were urged to switch to tank or bottled water after high sodium chloride levels were detected in the town supply. The source of the salinity was traced to Ensham Mine flushing its flooded pits into the Nogoa River, leading to a build-up of mineral and the total dissolved solids at Bedford Weir.
“Ensham was a completely different beast,” said Mr Rickards. “There was no possibility for controlled water release at Ensham.”
AgForce vice president/treasurer, Christine Rolfe, said she had great faith in the new tests as a preventative measure against future flooding.
“If they can get rid of the water now then there’s less chance of creeks being flooded by uncontrolled discharges later on,” she said.
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