Mines may be $3.2 billion short of rehabilitation cost
THE money held by government for cleaning up mine sites could be almost $3.2 billion short, according to leaked Queensland Government documents.
Anti-mining group Lock the Gate has described the revelations as "a scandalous failure of successive Queensland Governments to regulate big coal".
The financial assurances act as similar to how a tenant pays a bond to a homeowner, on the promise that if they damage the site, repairs can be taken from that sum.
The bond is available to the government if the mine's owner strikes financial failure, or refuses to properly rehabilitate the mining land.
According to the report published by the ABC, the amount contributed by mines was "incorrect" or "too low".
The Department responsible has said its own report cannot yet be considered reliable because the figures are yet to be confirmed.
Lock the Gate coordinator Rick Humphries said mining companies had made enormous profits during the boom period, but were now attempting to have taxpayers pay for the clean up.
"The report is a terrible indictment on the Queensland Government, who have failed to properly protect taxpayers and who have allowed big coal to rort the rehabilitation system to the tune of $3.2 billion," he said.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. The report didn't cover other commodities like copper, lead or zinc. That'll be billions more."
Mining companies are expected to rehabilitate sites once mining has concluded. That rehabilitation work must be approved by the Queensland Government before the bond can be returned.
When Rio Tinto shut down its Blair Athol mine in 2012, its clean-up was expected to take up to six years before the company could expect to be returned its $84 million assurance.
Queensland Resources Council - which represents the state's mining industry - estimated the Queensland Government should be collecting less money, not more, from the resources sector.
QRC's Michael Roche told ABC the money held by the government could otherwise be spent or invested in jobs, exploration or new projects.
He said there was no shortfall in the assurances paid by mining companies.
"We think the state is collecting far too much compared to the risk the state is actually carrying site by site," he said.