Water: more Precious than Coal

Water: more Precious than Coal

Would you like some heavy metals with that? Wastewater from coal mine pits released directly into Queensland rivers during floods

At least 20 coal mines have released contaminated wastewater directly into rivers in Queensland since the floods started a few days ago. In some cases, like the Saraji mine near Moranbah, water has been discharged directly from the coal pit into a local creek system whilst in other cases it has come directly from pollution ponds. There is no requirement to treat the water before it is discharged.

Water within coal mines accumulates heavy metals and salts - which pose a ...

Would you like some heavy metals with that? Wastewater from coal mine pits released directly into Queensland rivers during floods

At least 20 coal mines have released contaminated wastewater directly into rivers in Queensland since the floods started a few days ago. In some cases, like the Saraji mine near Moranbah, water has been discharged directly from the coal pit into a local creek system whilst in other cases it has come directly from pollution ponds. There is no requirement to treat the water before it is discharged.

Water within coal mines accumulates heavy metals and salts - which pose a danger to drinking water supplies and to human health as well as to water quality and ecosystem function in creeks and rivers. Many dangerous pollutants will not just flush down the river system but will instead be stored in sediments and lodged behind barriers such as weirs - posing a pollution threat for many years to come. 

Most of these mines are located within the Fitzroy River Basin in Central Queensland. The Fitzroy River is the drinking water supply for the regional centre of Rockhampton and is also one of the major coastal estuaries flowing into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The Fitzroy Delta, which includes the beautiful Keppel Bay, is the largest river delta in Australia which is home to the rare and iconic Australian Snubfin Dolphin. Despite the fact that heavy metals are known to bio-accumulate in marine environments, affecting the entire marine food chain, there has been no long-term testing of the impact of mine water releases on the Fitzroy Delta or the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

Even before the latest flood, previous wet years meant there was already a huge body of contaminated water sitting within coal mines in the Basin - it has been estimated that there was at least 281 billion litres of contaminated water in 16 different mines at the end of 2012. Now all this, plus the additional water from the big wet this year, will be earmarked for our river systems.

Discharges of contaminated water in previous years have caused all kinds of problems - in 2008 discharges from a flooded open-cut coal pit into the Nogoa river led to increased sodium levels and resultant health and water quality problems and in late 2011 testing showed increasing salinity levels in the Fitzroy River at Rockhampton.

Instead of acting to stop our rivers being polluted by the irresponsible actions of big coal corporations, the Queensland Government has instead approved them, and last year it passed new legislation which makes it even easier for miners to discharge contaminated water untreated into our river systems.

  • Click here to see more extraordinary images and read more about the impacts of coal and gas mining on our catchments, rivers and aquifers across Australia.

It's long past time for the Federal Government to intervene - they shouldn't stand by and watch as our rivers and coastlines are polluted by coal mining operations. They shouldn't ignore this real threat to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and our international reputation. 

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Email Environment Minister Tony Burke and his federal colleagues

Join us now in writing to the relevant Federal Members of Parliament to ask for action to prevent any further pollution of our creeks and river systems by big coal corporations.

Your letter will be sent to:

  • Tony Burke, the Federal Environment Minister 
  • Kirsten Livermore, the Member for Capricornia (which covers Rockhampton) 
  • Tony Windsor, Independent Member who has been instrumental in getting greater federal oversight of water related matters
  • Larissa ...

Join us now in writing to the relevant Federal Members of Parliament to ask for action to prevent any further pollution of our creeks and river systems by big coal corporations.

Your letter will be sent to:

  • Tony Burke, the Federal Environment Minister 
  • Kirsten Livermore, the Member for Capricornia (which covers Rockhampton) 
  • Tony Windsor, Independent Member who has been instrumental in getting greater federal oversight of water related matters
  • Larissa Waters, Greens Senator whose portfolios include mining, environment and the Great Barrier Reef.

Please note that you can change the subject line and add your own comments to this letter so that you can tell the federal members why this issue is important to you.

 

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