Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Greens calling for inquiry into miners not cleaning up their toxic messes

The Greens want to see a national audit of all abandoned and operational coal mines to determine the gap between the real cost of rehabilitation and the amount held in bonds. We need a national inquiry into mine rehabilitation, and this formed part of the Greens’ comprehensive mining rehabilitation policy which we took to the 2016 election. As a first step I will be asking Labor and the Coalition for their support to establish a Senate inquiry into this issue.
Waters,-Larissa-Senator-1Miners must be forced to clean up their messes http://www.smh.com.au/comment/miners-must-be-forced-to-clean-up-their-messes-20161011-grzjx1.html
Larissa Waters, 13 Oct 16    
Some people may be surprised to hear a Greens Senator say this, but here goes. Coal has been a key part of the Queensland economy for many years. Yes, the number of jobs provided by coal has always been overblown (more people work at McDonalds than in coal mining); it makes up less than 0.5 per cent of all jobs in Australia. On the other hand, for places like Clermont and Collinsville, coal has provided a sense of identity as well as stable employment.

All of that is changing, and we need our governments to catch up. The urgent threat of global warming, combined with the world-wide transition to clean energy, have pushed thermal coal into “structural decline”.

Globally the transition away from coal power is already underway. In Queensland, that transition is already hitting home along with the end of the mining boom, with thousands of jobs lost in coal mines, and more job losses to come. In September, it was reported that Hazelwood, Australia’s dirtiest coal power station, will close in 2017. Our job as leaders is to make sure there is a just transition away from coal which looks after workers and communities.

Clean energy will play a huge part in Queensland’s future. Last month, Queensland secured 1100 mostly regional jobs from five large-scale solar projects funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. To create more jobs and to stop dangerous global warming, the Greens want to see 100 per cent clean energy as quickly as possible, with at least 90 per cent by 2030, and a $1 billion Clean Energy Transition Fund to make sure no one is left behind.

Coal communities should be supported to plan their own future, with government investment to help them create jobs. Part of that just transition must be secure jobs in mine rehabilitation, especially for older workers who may have trouble retraining or relocating. Alongside thousands of new regional jobs in clean energy, mine rehabilitation can provide employment in the same communities and regions most affected by the coal downturn.

Queenslanders are being ripped off. Again and again, big mining companies like Rio, BHP, Peabody and Glencore are simply taking their profits and walking away without securing those much-needed jobs in rehabilitation.  

Rio Tinto recently sold the Blair Athol mine for just $1 to junior mining company TerraCom. This common tactic is used by companies to shirk their legal obligations. Rio has only allocated $80m for rehabilitation work, but it’s estimated that the actual cost will be twice as much.

That story is being repeated across Queensland and Australia. Anglo-American has reportedly sold the Callide mine to shelf company Batchfire Resources without an adequate bond, and has sold the Foxleigh mine to Taurus Funds Management. Cockatoo Coal’s Baralaba mine has not been rehabilitated after the company went into liquidation.

Mining companies must provide “bonds” to state governments to cover rehabilitation costs, but governments have routinely failed to collect enough to cover the true cost of rehabilitation. In Queensland the gap between those figures is $3.2 billion, just for coal. That’s a massive tab left for the public purse to cover, or a massive, polluting scar left on the landscape.

Just like multinational tax avoidance, big mining companies are getting away with pocketing huge profits and not doing their fair share, because the old parties lack the courage to take them on.

It’s estimated that restoring the Blair Athol coal mine could generate around 40 full-time jobs for the next 6 to 10 years. Taking those numbers as a benchmark, rehabilitating the 40 coal mines in the Bowen Basin would create 2000-3000 jobs for many years to come.

Proper rehabilitation of old mines is a win for our regional communities. Unless they are cleaned up and the final voids filled in, these sites can permanently lower the water table, threatening local communities with pollution from hypersaline water and heavy metals.  These pollutants can contaminate local rivers and threaten downstream fishing industries. Near Rockhampton, the abandoned Mt Morgan gold mine is still a toxic, polluting mess. During the 2013 floods, the mine leaked heavy metals into the Dee River.

The Greens want to see a national audit of all abandoned and operational coal mines to determine the gap between the real cost of rehabilitation and the amount held in bonds. We need a national inquiry into mine rehabilitation, and this formed part of the Greens’ comprehensive mining rehabilitation policy which we took to the 2016 election. As a first step I will be asking Labor and the Coalition for their support to establish a Senate inquiry into this issue. That inquiry would give the community an opportunity to have a say in their own future and allow us to hold mining companies to account for their bad behaviour.

October 13, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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