Environment? What environment? Federal inaction at Mt. Morgan is brewing a toxic disaster

A mine tailings dam about to fail is a REAL environmental problem but is not "sexy" enough to attract the attention of the grand people of the Gillard government, apparently -- but it could be a disaster for a lot of people. Sen. Barnaby Joyce comments below

Well we do not have a problem as long as the 7,000 mega litres of water held back by the tailings wall does not break. In total there is 11,500 mega litres in the Mount Morgan Mine pit laced with cadmium and other heavy metals which would flow into the Dee River, then into the Don River, into the Dawson River and down into the city of Rockhampton's water supply on the Fitzroy. To understand the scale Lake Burley Griffin holds 33,000 mega litres.

They say that the cyanide that was used in processing is now inert but it is the acid rock drainage (ARD) that is the real problem. The water has a ph between 2.8 to 3.5. Understandably those downstream are a little anxious as the water is pouring through the tailings wall.

Because of the wet weather it would have been a good idea if the water course leading into the mine could be properly diverted around it.

The Government management could be described as a kiss it better job on a train crash. The State Environment Minister, Kate Jones, is almost pathological in her defence of bats. Maybe we could tell her that bats go to the river on the weekend. The locals are scratching their heads as to whether Kate has even visited the site. If she did it was low key.

Stirling Hinchcliffe, the Mines Minister, said how I dare impugn Kate's portfolio. Good-o. Well Stirling, apt name for a minister responsible for a mine which extracted 247,000kg of gold, 360,000 tonnes of copper and also 40,000kg of silver, what are you going to do apart from saying in a "yes minister" like form, nothing to see here, move on please.

When a ship the Shen Neng 1, ran onto a reef near Gladstone creating approximately one kilometre of damage, an aerial circus of everyone including Kevin Rudd, Bob Brown, Peter Garrett and Anna Bligh flew back and forth over the site crying tears of blood all over the cabin of the plane. It was a shame the planes with pollies instead of flying east to sea did not fly north west to Mt Morgan.

Later, cyclone Yasi knocked out, on a conservative estimate, 20,000 sq km of reef virtually shutting down sections of the much maligned fishing industry. An act of nature, sure, but there were no tears for the fisherman, apparently.

I do not recollect if we had spent all of Mr Garrett's, sorry your, $2.5 billion at that stage on ceiling insulation. If we had kept back $120 million of that we could have treated the water, emptied the pit, filled it in and covered it up.

Now, instead of a solution we are catching the water in dams that spills out and pumping it back in so it can spill back out again. Let me assure you that the little boy who stuck his finger in the dyke to save Holland had far more effect than the remedial work at Mt Morgan Mine. They have constructed a treatment works for 650 mega litres a year. Pathetic when compared to the enormity of the task at hand.

The locals down stream say they are looking up the hill to one of the greatest potential environmental disasters in Australia. The Dee River is already the most polluted in Queensland. The wealth of the mine was critical in the formation of BP and on a benevolent note, the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust. Unfortunately, it is becoming Australia's version of the former gold mines of Montanna and the environmental disaster they have bequeathed on the Bitter Root River. The Zortman-Landusky Mine was one of the first in the USA to attempt large scale cyanide heap leach extraction of low grade gold ores, unfortunately the water got out.

Where it really, counts the Labor party have deserted the environment. If the Labor Party, Mr Hinchliffe, Mr Garret or Ms Jones, who champions cleaning up our rivers, don't want to do it for the farmers or the people of Rockhampton, then possibly they may want to do it for the bats or the Barrier Reef. But wherever their motivation is, they should please do something more.


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