Queensland’s lax environmental assessment practices continue to present threats to the environment and the economy, causing fears for how major development on the Great Barrier Reef will be managed, said the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection announced it was charging Linc Energy for major breaches of environment laws 9 months after an alleged incident, but with no details released to landholders or the community.
Linc Energy have been running a pilot Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project near Chinchilla on the Darling Downs.
A similar UCG operation run by Cougar Energy at Kingaroy leaked cancer-causing chemicals into waterways in 2011.
Recently, the managing director of Linc Energy was interviewed on Radio National where he expressed confidence that he would beat the charges.
AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign director, Felicity Wishart, said the issue raised concerns about poor oversight of the mining industry, which could spill over into poor regulation for ports development adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.
“What we have seen from the Queensland government is cutting environmental regulations, reducing the number of people who enforce them, and failing to enforce environmental breaches when they occur.
“The lack of detail from the department and the confidence of Linc Energy this morning leaves the community reeling from fear; be it the cavalier regard some mining companies have for the environment; the failure of the government to ensure the environment is protected or the consequences for other industries reliant on a healthy environment.
“If poor environmental management and risky mining operations can happen in the food bowl of the Darling Downs it can happen on the Great Barrier Reef coastline where mining companies want to build more massive coal ports.
“The State Government is failing to ensure proper regulation – there is ample evidence of this in the recent Auditor General’s Report into the State Government’s regulation of the resources sector.
“It is completely unfair that tourism operators can get fined for dropping a piece of lettuce overboard and yet industry can dump millions of tonnes of dredge material into the Reef’s waters.
“It is extremely alarming that it took nine months before farmers and the community were notified of alleged serious environmental breaches of a mining operation.
“The Queensland government is allowing the miners to risk the state’s natural assets to the detriment of other industries and the community. The mining boom is over and jobs are being lost. When is the government going to realise we need to protect sustainable industries such as agriculture and tourism,” said Ms Wishart.
Press Release, April 22, 2014