The future of the Townsville’s Yabulu nickel refinery is on shaky ground but new environmental protection laws will ensure that no mess is left behind.
The State Government will introduce new laws to prevent businesses from leaving taxpayers with costly environmental clean-up bills.
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the Queensland Government would no longer tolerate companies closing their doors and leaving taxpayers to clean up after them.
Dr Miles says the Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill is required to deal with the looming problem.
“In the past 12 months there been faced increasing difficulties in ensuring that sites operated by companies in financial difficulty continue to comply with their environmental obligations,” Dr Miles said.
“There have been too many occasions where companies have closed their doors, and there is no money to deal with the costly clean-up and rehabilitation,” Dr Miles said.
“This has included sites such as the Yabulu Nickel Refinery.
“Townsville’s Yabulu nickel refinery requires ongoing management so that contaminated waters seeping from its tailings dam are pumped back into the dam in order to prevent serious harm to the Great Barrier Reef.
“Every effort should be taken so that Queensland Nickel bear the cost of managing the site to protect the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
Dr Miles says the existing provisions of the Environmental Protection Act were inadequate.
“Urgent amendments are required so that the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection can impose a chain of responsibility, and these companies bear the cost of managing and rehabilitating sites.
“The Government won’t tolerate seeing a business deliberately isolating or holding back funds that should be made available to meet their obligations to the workers, or the community,” he said.
Other key points in the Bill include:
- If one of these environmental protection orders is issued, and the recipient fails to comply with it, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection may require the recipient to pay the costs of taking action stated in the order or monitoring compliance with the order.
- The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection can amend environmental authorities when they are transferred to impose a condition requiring the provision of financial assurance.
- Authorised officers under the EP Act have powers to access sites no longer subject to an environmental authority.