The rehabilitation of mine-sites across Western Australia has been a litany of failure on many fronts, particularly in ‘out of the way’ Northern regional areas. Photographer Hugh Brown is concerned.
This is a blight on the industry that needs to be fixed.
What is happening at Ellendale in the Kimberley currently is one example only. The taxpayer should not be left to foot the clean-up bill for mines that go broke or that are sold to companies that have no capacity to do the remedial work. It’s just another example where we are passing off our responsibilities and leaving a mess for future generations to deal with.
Government is always telling us that there are strict environmental conditions in place for these large mine approvals, but they are meaningless if those conditions are never enforced.
There’s a new vogue in mine rehabilitation: sell the mine for nothing, and let someone else sort it out.
thesaturdaypaper.com.au (subscription required)
(Tom Harley Large bonds are paid before mining starts, the Government is sitting on $1.5 billion … )
That’s a question I will be asking next week. Hugh goes o0n to say:
Hugh BrownHey Mate. I understand that, but as I understand these things, bonds are put up for specific projects. It’s not a single pool that the Government draws from. The Barnett Government also wound back requirements in these last few years meaning that companies had to put up less. Not good if those same companies go broke. I see many many mines in my work in Australia that have closed and there;s simply no rehab done. I could take you to many mines in the Pilbara that shut in the seventies and there’s still not a blade of grass on the haul roads. And the only reason the culvert is still not in the neighbouring river is that a cat 5 cyclone came through and ripped it out. One could say that that was the seventies and now is different, but my experience is otherwise. We’re probably worse now because we know what the consequences are but we turn a blind eye. Hope you are well.
Hugh Brown is correct. Most often, the rehabilitation is the last thing on the minds of departing miners. In one case at Koolan Island, all the equipment including accommodation and machinery that wasn’t removed, was pushed by dozers into the pit, the seawall blown up and the dump becomes a polluted artificial reef, out of sight, out of mind.
Woodside’s James Price Point adventure is coughing up for rehabilitation by planting thousands of wattle seedlings, when it could be planting a useful native orchard like Gubinge for the use of local indigenous groups.
This article is definitely worth a read as it hits on most of the key issues. Also take a look at The Saturday Paper article by Mike Seccombe.