The old gold mine is one of Queensland’s biggest abandoned mines. (ABC News: Dominique Schwartz)
Farmers who live near one of Queensland’s biggest abandoned mines believe they have just lost their last chance for a toxic environmental legacy to be reversed.
They are now calling on the state to finally rehabilitate the old Mount Morgan gold mine instead.
“This has gone on long enough,” farmer Neal Johansen said.
Since 2014, Australian company Carbine Resources had been working on a proposal to pull copper, pyrite and gold tailings from the abandoned mine, south-west of Rockhampton.
The Dee River at Dululu, 55km downstream from the Mount Morgan mine in Queensland, went blue in 2013 after the gold mine overflowed. (ABC News: Ian Townsend)
The site leaks waste into the nearby Dee River and, in 2013 after ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald, its acidic dams overflowed into the river for the first time in its history.
Last month, Carbine Resources announced it had doubts about the financial viability of the project.
It asked for a renegotiation of its terms with the companies that currently control the old site’s mining lease, and asked the Queensland Government for a contribution of $25 million.
It argued that a royalties reduction or grant was warranted because its proposal would help clean up the toxic site, and local farmers backed its cause.
Board blames ‘key stakeholders’ for unviable project
On Friday, Carbine Resources announced it was completely pulling the pin on the project.
“The board’s resolution is a direct result of the company not being able to achieve any meaningful outcomes with the key stakeholders to improve the terms of the various agreements associated with the project to increase returns to an acceptable level,” it said in a statement to the ASX.
Ian Scott is disappointed that Carbine Resources is not going ahead with its proposal. (ABC News: Emilia Terzon)
Ian Scott, who lives near the Dee River, said the announcement was disappointing.
“It’s a big blow to the economy and a lot of people were interested in jobs there. The town and everybody will suffer, that’s for sure,” he said.
Mr Johansen, who is also the chairman of the local Landcare Group, agreed.
“I’m pretty disgusted actually. I think the Queensland Government looked a gift horse in the mouth and just watched it run away,” he said.
In a statement, a State Government spokeswoman told the ABC it had made “a significant confidential offer to the company just this week” under its Jobs and Regional Growth Funding Initiative.
The Government would not confirm if the offer matched Carbine Resource’s $25 million request.
Carbine Resources and the other companies involved were not available for comment.
Renewed calls for site to be rehabilitated
Carbine Resources is at least the third company that has proposed to mine the site’s old tailings since it shut down more than three decades ago, and neither Mr Scott and Mr Johansen believe another company will try again.
The Dee River was off limits after the Mount Morgan mine overflowed in 2013. (ABC News: Emilia Terzon)
The site is officially a ward of the state, and it currently spends $3 million a year maintaining the site — which is also a heritage-listed tourist attraction — and its dams full of toxic water.
Estimates for a partial rehabilitation start at $450 million.
Mr Johansen said it was now time for the Government to do a full costing and rehabilitation of the site.
“The Government can spend [money] on roads down in south-east Queensland but when it comes to central Queensland, I don’t think they’ll put their money into it,” he said.
The Government spokesperson said they were still looking at “next steps” with the mine’s head lease owners, Norton.
“A number of options remain open at Mount Morgan, including trials by other proponents of different re-processing technology.”