Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rivers and mines don't mix

The Environmental Protection Agency website homepage has a report on recent pollution of the Fitzroy River System in Central Qld from coal mine "dewatering". Go to . Here's a snippet -

Fitzroy River Water Quality

In January/February 2008 parts of Central Queensland were hit by what may have been one-in-five-hundred-year flood affecting much of the Bowen Basin area of Central Queensland, significantly in the Nogoa, Belyando and Warrego rivers.

The Fairbairn Dam overflowed late in January, flooding the township of Emerald, resulting in the declaration of the area as a disaster zone.

A number of mines in the region were also affected by this unprecedented rainfall event. In order to allow recovery of these mines after the floods, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a number of Emergency Directions and Transitional Environmental Programs under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, allowing the affected mines to discharge flood waters to nearby streams, subject to certain conditions.

At the time the EPA issued these approvals it was identified that the longer the water remained stored in large mine pits, the greater the decrease in quality and potential effects on natural waterways, the aquatic environment and water resource users. The EPA consulted with mining companies, the Department of Natural Resources and Water (NRW) and the Emerald Shire Disaster Recovery Team before approving the discharge of entrapped flood waters from flooded mines.

Ensham Coal Mine (photos above and below), 40km east of Emerald, was one of the most severely affected of those mines, being subject to rainfall and flooding that trapped a dragline and resulted in an estimated 150,000 megalitres (ML) of floodwater being collected in the mine. The EPA authorised the mine to discharge flood waters entrapped in this mine to the Nogoa River, which ultimately flows into the Fitzroy River, under strict conditions which were based on guideline values from the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (2000) and were designed to protect the downstream environmental values of the river – including the use of the water for agricultural and domestic purposes. In the months that this work has been undertaken, water in the river has been monitored to assess any potential impacts.

In August 2008, water quality results for Bedford Weir downstream of Ensham Coal Mine, indicated that salinity was increasing in waterways, dams and weirs downstream of the Ensham discharge and that domestic water supplies for some townships using this source for their drinking supplies were being affected.
Queensland Health issued a health alert to the community about the potential health affect of increased salinity for those members of the public having to monitor their sodium intake. Ensham Mine voluntarily ceased discharging water from the mine on 9 September.

Queensland Government response
A technical working group including a number of government agencies and experts was formed to further investigate issues associated with the situation and address these issues. Sodium levels in some drinking water supplies were found to be above the aesthetic quality parameter of 180ug/L which is potentially a health concern for people on low salt diets and bottle fed infants younger than six months. The smell and taste of the water also caused concerns for residents in the townships of Blackwater and Tieri. There were also concerns from the public that wildlife may be impacted by the elevated salinity.

Guess what? Ensham has started pumping out again. Qld Country Life report -

Deja vu for Fitzroy mine water
15/01/2009 11:03:00 AM
IN what could be described as a case of deja vu, Emerald's Ensham Resources has again been forced to temporarily discharge water into the Nogoa River to maintain production after more than 300 megalitres of water flowed into the coalmine during recent heavy rain.
With total falls of more than 120mm since December 27, 2008, in the vicinity of Ensham Mine, it has so far discharged 70ML since January 3.
It comes a year after monsoon rain and heavy flooding in the Central Highlands first prompted the mine to start discharging water into the river system.
In the nine months to September 2008, Ensham dewatered a total of 140,000ML into the river system.
The latest dewatering at the mine has renewed calls from community and industry groups for ongoing independent water quality testing of the Nogoa and other waterways in the Fitzroy Basin, and for a long-term alternative solution to mines having to dewater into waterways.

Ambre Energy propose developing a huge 13million t/year open-cut mine adjacent to Hodgson Creek in the headwaters of the Murray Darling. Where do they propose to pump the toxic water that will collect?


mind your own Google business! said...

Pity that QCL and all of us get caught up using this new-speak verb "dewater". What was wrong with "discharge"? Of course it sounds too much sewerage and pollution!

Excellent work on your blogg here!
regards, Jono.

humblepeasant said...

Thanks Jono, I'll try to make dewater denecessary and revert to discharge.