A MINING company has been fined $250,000 and its managing director fined an additional $50,000 for causing serious environmental harm to nearby waterways in North Queensland.
The copper miners pleaded guilty in the Cairns Magistrates Court to wilfully contravening several conditions of its Environmental Authority and Transitional Environmental Program, wilfully contravening an Environmental Protection Order and wilfully causing unlawful serious environmental harm under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
The company's managing director was charged for failing to ensure the company complied with the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
The Honourable Steven Miles
The Court heard officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) inspected the site in the Palmer River area between May 2014 and July 2014 in response to concerns that contaminated water was seeping from an on-site catch dam.
Officers observed ongoing seepage of highly contaminated water from the catch dam, that an on-site waste rock dump had not been remediated as required, no evidence of any monitoring of the contamination, and that no works were being undertaken to address the ongoing contamination.
EHP had previously issued the company with an Environmental Protection Order in June 2014 requiring the company to undertake and complete works to cease the release of contaminants from the catch dam to the receiving environment by 7 July 2014. This had not occurred.
Dr Miles said that a report commissioned by EHP stated the dissolved copper concentrations released from the site was likely to cause lethal effects to aquatic organisms as far as 800 metres downstream from the mine.
"Experts found the environmental harm occurring at the site had a very high impact on aquatic life in the area, causing significant long term effects in at least 99.5 per cent of species, and mortality in at least 22 per cent of species,'' he said.
The court was told the level of environmental harm caused by the actions of the company and its director was serious and high impact.
The company was also ordered to pay $37,000 in investigation costs and $1600 legal fees.
No conviction was recorded.
The Magistrate is also considering a rehabilitation order that will require the company to rehabilitate the mine site and undertake all works necessary to cease the unlawful release of contaminates from the site.
The Court also ordered that:
• The company pay $40,000 towards a project, to be administered by the Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers Program, to be carried out by the Gummi Junga Aboriginal Corporation, for environmental rehabilitation works that improves water quality in local waterways on or around Bonny Glen Station, on which the mine site is located
• The company pay $40,000 for a project, to be administered by the Mitchell River Watershed Management Group Inc, for improvements to water quality through restoration and rehabilitation of riparian zones downstream of the mine site
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