Mine water discharged into CQ drinking water supply

Anglo American’s Callide open-cut coal mine on the banks of the Callide Dam, which supplies Biloela with drinking water.
Anglo American’s Callide open-cut coal mine on the banks of the Callide Dam, which supplies Biloela with drinking water.

MILLIONS of litres of mine discharge were pumped into creeks upstream of a drinking water dam in Central Queensland - but the State Government failed to warn those in charge of treating the water.

Anglo American's Callide open-cut coal mine released more than 500ML, or 500 million litres, into Callide Dam with the most recent lasting 61 days.

The Banana Shire Council is in charge of ensuring the quality of the water delivered from the dam to the 6000 residents in Biloela, but neither the mine nor the Queensland Government informed them of the discharges.

In two incidents this year, Callide Mine released a combined total of more than 505ML after its on-site dam overflowed on February 19.

That continued until the water release was finally stopped on April 21.An Anglo spokeswoman said there was no issue with the water, which was tested as it was released by Callide.

The mine fed the information directly to the Queensland Department of Environment but the data was not passed on to the council or dam owners Sunwater because the State felt the impact of mine water entering the dam via Dunn Creek would be "negligible".

This means the crews in charge of treating the water were not informed on how best to ensure drinking supplies were up to standard.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell defended the decision saying the department did not want to cause "undue concern among communities".

There was no indication the addition of mine water to Callide Dam posed any risk to the health of those in the area. Banana Mayor Ron Carige said regardless of the government's confidence in the water, the council needed to be told.

"We owe it to everyone to make an informed decision," he said.

"You can't make that decision until you know there has been a release into the dam."

After being contacted by APN, Anglo confirmed it would maintain regular contact with the nearby council.

Until he was quizzed on the issue, Cr Carige did not know the mine was able to release water upstream of the dam - he understood any water would be released downstream of the reservoir.

Cr Carige said if had known, he would have gone to the council's water and sewerage director to make sure the quality was perfect.

"Anything to do with the dam is impacting our people - I believe we should have been informed."

Minister Powell said he agreed that councils needed to be told if their water was at risk, which was not the case here.

"Mine water releases are strictly monitored and we will not allow any release that does not meet high water quality standards," he said.

Topics:  andrew powell anglo american banana shire council biloela callide mining

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